OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ne. --
The 343d Recruiting Squadron became one of team Offutt’s partner units in 2010. It is one of nine units geographically separated from the 372nd Recruiting Group at Hill AFB, Utah, and one of 24 recruiting squadrons in Air Force Recruiting Service, headquartered at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.
“Being on a base offers additional security that some recruiting squadron headquarters and all active duty recruiting offices don’t have,” said Lt. Col. Janelle Koch, 343d RCS commander. “With the support we get from the 55th Wing, we have access to facilities and contracts that allows us to keep our primary focus on our recruiters out in the field.”
Recruiting is a special duty assignment, and this unit is currently home to 80 active duty and 12 civilian personnel. Their primary mission is raising civilians’ awareness about the Air Force and recruiting quality men and women with the right skills, at the right time, in the right numbers to sustain the combat capability of the U.S. Air Force and Space Force.
The 343d RCS covers a 370,000 square mile area that includes Nebraska, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, and western Wisconsin.
Before COVID-19, along with traditional advertising, digital marketing and social media, recruiters hosted and attended events such as Motocross and Snocross to draw interest. Most important were presentations in rural high school classrooms, which allowed recruiters to educate their primary audience on approximately 150 enlisted career fields.
Part of being a recruiter is raising awareness about the Air Force and providing essential information regarding careers whenever possible, and the lack of events and zero access to school presentations due to COVID-19 made the job much more difficult. The recruiters were still tasked with bringing in between two and five high-quality applicants each month to maintain Air Force strength levels as Space Force recruiting was just getting started.
The military has been recruiting since the times of the colonies in the 1700’s. During World War II, 55 percent of military members were drawn to the profession through recruiting posters. In 1957, the Department of Defense began using television with a film titled Country Style USA to attract applicants.
Recruiting methods have continued to progress throughout the years. Television commercials have been used to recruit for all military services, and efforts have naturally evolved to include social media, but the initial face-to-face interaction remained the most common and effective way to recruit.
With school closing throughout the squadron’s area of responsibility due to the COVID pandemic, the recruiting process has been more challenging.
“Air Force Recruiting Service worked quickly to allow virtual access, such as allowing digital signatures on documentation for civilian applicants,” Koch said. “We adjusted our operations to meet the needs of applicants and recruiters by moving to an ‘all virtual’ system to limit contact with the public.”
Recruiters continue to work virtually, though they are returning to face-to-face appointments with applicants per guidance from Air Force Recruiting Service headquarters.
“The Air Force has done a great job allowing us to recruit virtually in a career field that wasn’t set up for virtual work. It has continued to make us more efficient in our recruiting efforts even as we get back to in-person events,” said Tech. Sgt. Andrew Magathan, a recruiter stationed in Grand Island, Nebraska.
The 343d RCS recruiters continue to adapt, performing more of their mission virtually, and establishing a new normal amid COVID-19.