Air Force Secretary Celebrates Win With Air Force Recruiters

  • Published
  • By Randy Martin, Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- The Secretary of the Air Force celebrated a victory with Air Force recruiters in Bristol Motor Speedway's Midway Sept. 17, 2022. Secretary Frank Kendall rang a bell in keeping with tradition, during his meeting with 332nd Recruiting Squadron members outside a national recruiting exhibit deployed to BMS for a NASCAR Cup Series playoff race.

"It's great to spend time with some of our incredible recruiters who are out here doing the important work that's required to keep our Air and Space Forces strong," Kendall said during a visit that coincided with the Air Force's 75th anniversary weekend. 

Amid throngs of race fans, Kendall posed for photos, then thanked the assembly, which included families of Airmen, for their support. "To serve in the military is a tremendous opportunity and we need to communicate that," he said.  

For Air Force recruiters, fiscal 2022 has been one the toughest years in decades. Competition and low propensity to serve have combined with other factors that work against military recruiters. The small number of Air Force recruiters compared with other branches and their coverage area also creates additional challenges.  

For example, with fewer than 100 Airmen, the 332nd RCS covers 92,000 square-miles. Having a large presence at Bristol, on race weekend, was logical considering the sport's popularity. Bristol's enlisted accession recruiter, a ground equipment maintainer by trade, was thrilled at her prospects.

"As a recruiter I'm really excited to be in Bristol so I can work and attend the motor speedway races," Tech. Sgt. Maureen Franks said.  

Franks and the 332nd got additional help from Air Force Recruiting Service's Marketing Division. A team deployed to Bristol to coordinate many aspects of race weekend including the placement of a Special Warfare themed virtual reality simulator that generates leads by guests. The team also arranged for Erik Jones, driver of NASCAR's #43 Chevrolet Camaro, to meet and greet some fans at the exhibit.

"It's an honor to represent the U.S. Air Force and have them on our number 43 Chevy this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway," Jones said. For this rare night race, Jones' car featured an Air Force-themed paint scheme. "This season has been great, and I can't thank the Air Force enough for their continued support and partnership with myself and Petty GMS."

It was one of several opportunities to showcase the Air Force for a television audience and ticketholders inside a coliseum that holds 150,000.  

"I believe Air Force Recruiters have a great opportunity to meet potential recruits and provide the community with information at Bristol Motor Speedway," said Airman 1st Class Seth Sillmon, a Recruiter Assistance Program member who was helping his former 332nd RCS recruiter at Bristol. Sillmon grew up in Talladega, Alabama, another rally point for race fans, and he recently graduated from Air Force Basic Military Training and Technical Training School.

"NASCAR has been in my life since I was young," Sillmon said. "I always enjoyed the energy and excitement when I attended a race." 

Dozens of future Airmen and Guardians shook hands with Kendall ahead of their pre-race appearance on an infield stage for an Oath of Enlistment ceremony. "We're tremendously proud of each one of you and I know that you will be very happy about the decision you have made," Kendall said. "You get a chance to do interesting, exciting, important work. You get to serve your country and prepare for a career in the service or outside of it in a very positive way."

After the ceremony a U.S. flag, stretched wide between two of four Air Force Special Warfare rappelers descended from a jumbotron called Colossus as race fans joined in singing, "I'm proud to be an American."

On the ground, covered in sweat from the arduous decent on a humid night, one of the SW Airmen reflected on the opportunity. 

"I love the patriotism of NASCAR fans and the way they show their love for the U.S.A.," said Master Sgt. Kristopher Tomes, a recruiter from the 330th Recruiting Squadron and pararescue Airman by trade. 

Tomes rejoined the rest of his team plus four future Airmen, who were cradling the flag to keep it from touching the ground. As they folded the flag an Arkansas Air National Guard C-130J Super Hercules flown by the 189th Airlift Wing from Little Rock passed overhead.

"The United States Air Force and motorsports share similar values in their goals," Sillmon said. "In the Air Force we operate as one team with one common goal - mission success. Similarly, you see a lot of that in motorsports. There is also an acute attention to detail from the drivers to the pit crews in motorsports and in the Air Force that attention to detail is what allows for mission success."

Air Force Recruiting Service met its overall recruiting goal for the Air Force's active component in fiscal 2022 but will be starting fiscal 2023 with a much smaller pool of Delayed Entry Program personnel.