Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Recruiting for 2030: Is the US Air Force Getting the Recruits It Needs for the Future?

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Recruiting for 2030: Is the US Air Force Getting the Recruits It Needs for the Future?

Article excerpt

The Air Force has stated that it seeks not only 31,980 recruits in fiscal year 2009 to meet its needs for sustain- ment but also the right people with the right skills at the right time.1 However, our service recruits Airmen, not numbers. The Air Force wants capable Airmen today who will become leaders for tomorrow. Will we meet our goal for 2009? Absolutely. Even though the number 31,980 represents about 4,000 more individuals than we recruited the previous year, more than likely, the Air Force will have little difficulty accessing this figure.2 In fact, we will probably book this many into the system by the summer of 2009. Furthermore, the Air Force Recruiting Service (AFRS) almost certainly not only will get the right number of people but also will access recruits who match prerequisite skill levels and aptitudes at precisely the sequence and timing needed for all training pipelines. One question remains, though: will the Air Force attract the type of recruits it requires for the future? Obviously, this question is essentially qualitative rather than quantitative. Many individuals in the current ranks fear that the answer is no. They may be correct- but probably for the wrong reasons. A sufficient number of people with the proper cognitive ability or aptitude are available and willing to join. If we fail, we will do so because we lack insight about how to recruit and what we really need for the strongest possible Air Force. Thus, this article first addresses the challenges and processes that recruiters face in their effort to meet stated mission goals. It then examines how policies, processes, and programs effectively concentrate on certain areas that emphasize diversity but, in so doing, may create new, currently unaddressed problems for future recruiting.3

Recruiting Challenges

Every day, Air Force recruiters work hard to find young men and women who will become leaders 20 years from now. They seek quality applicants who meet the service's stated goals and criteria. When I served as commander of a recruiting squadron for most of the states of the Upper Midwest, I directed a unit that looks for the best and brightest in this nine-state region.4 The uninitiated could hardly fathom the challenges associated with this daunting task. For example, few people understand that 73 percent of youth between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible to join the US military.5 That is, we cannot even consider almost three out of every four individuals in this group. Further, most of them have no interest in serving in the armed forces. Currently, training programs in recruiting teach that in order to get one recruit to basic military training, we must make contact with 100 individuals.6 How is it possible for the Air Force to meet all of its numbers and satisfy both internal and external quality metrics yet still not get the people it needs for the future? The answer to this question depends upon a confluence of overlapping factors, including requirements, quality, and eligibility, as well as manning, demographics, and propensity.


We're all familiar with the saying, "We get what we ask for." A good staff officer quickly learns that everything flows from stated requirements. What is the mission? Whether personnel, logistics, or operations, we have to know what is required before we can satisfy a need. This article will not labor over the extensive processes originating with Headquarters US Air Force, Manpower and Personnel, that drive requirements for recruits, based on extensive compilations of projected vacancies and known training pipelines as stated by functional communities across the service. Suffice it to say that our goals derive from requirements levied through that command structure down to the individual recruiter in strip malls of small towns across America. Ultimately, we get what we ask for- at least within budgetary constraints.


What do we ask for? The answer varies, depending on the functional community. …

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