JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH – Travel restrictions, cancelled flights and social distancing guidelines due to the COVID-19 pandemic aren’t getting in the way of the Air Force Recruiting Service’s mission.
As the world is telling people to stay at home, the Air Force is finding new and diverse ways to ship applicants to basic military training.
“Today’s Air Force calls for our recruiting team to adapt to the constant changes in their current needs and requirements for each new ship week to basic military training,” said Capt Eric Roe, 364th Recruiting Squadron director of operations. “Our recruiting team must be ready to pivot, prioritize and match applicants to an optimal job and enter active duty date on a weekly and sometimes hourly basis.”
This requires agile shipping, which AFRS has employed in the past.
“We’ve always had to be agile, make changes during shipping days,” said Master Sgt. Dana Bazile, 360th Recruiting Group operations officer. “For example, if an applicant’s health condition has changed at the last minute, this could delay their departure. Each week we’d see one or two applicants in this situation and we’d have to quickly adjust ship dates or switch to an applicant from another location.”
The biggest difference is now, those changes are significantly larger in scale.
“We’ve had to adjust on the fly to Military Entrance Processing Station closures just two days before shipment,” Bazile said.
As MEPS locations shut down, or come back online due to COVID-19, AFRS finds ways to transport recruits to adjacent MEPS to complete their final medical checks before going to BMT. This allows AFRS to continue to meet Air Force accession requirements while minimizing the pandemic’s effect on the MEPS operational status at any given time.
Bazile says there is a reason the Air Force continues to bring in new recruits.
“We have to balance our (mission) to build and maintain the strength of the Air Force with the need for public safety, but we also have to understand that we have a promise of a career to these people joining our team,” Bazile said.
Communication between the recruiter and the applicant is the single most important part of the process. Normal applicant engagement is centered upon recruiters meeting face-to-face with potential applicants and members in the Delayed Enlistment Program to discuss options and go over accession paperwork.
“Technology has allowed us as recruiters to maintain our relationships with our applicants and DEPers,” said Tech. Sgt. Charles Giertz, a 317th Recruiting Squadron enlisted accessions recruiter. “It has been the unbelievable receptiveness of the applicants to flex to this new way of doing things that has made this transition as seamless as possible. Their understanding and willingness to adhere to the ever flowing changes coming down from AFRS has been nothing short of amazing and has me so excited to see where they take our Air Force!”