By Master Sgt. Mike R. Smith , National Guard Bureau
/ Published March 19, 2010
Dallas, TX -- The Air National Guard's top recruiters were celebrated for their accomplishments here last night after what many described as a tough, but landmark recruiting year in 2009.
The formal awards banquet was held on the first day of the Air Guard's annual Recruiting and Retention Training Workshop this week. The winners were:
Recruiting and Retention Superintendent of the Year Senior Master Sgt. Connie M. Bacik, Headquarters, Wisconsin
Recruiting Office Supervisor of the Year Master Sgt. Loren M. Bell, 146th Airlift Wing, California
Production Recruiter of the Year Tech. Sgt. Jeremee H. Tate, 146th Airlift Wing, California
Recruiting/Retention Noncommissioned Officer of the Year Master Sgt. Gary D. Dowling, 103rd Air Communications Squadron, Connecticut
Rookie Recruiter of the Year Tech. Sgt. Eric D. Martin, 188th Fighter Wing, Arkansas
Retention Office Manager of the Year Master Sgt. Roselina B. Weldon, 154th Wing, Hawaii
Rookie Retention Office Manager of the Year Tech. Sgt. Paul F. Havran, 132nd Fighter Wing, Iowa
Unit Career Advisor of the Year Master Sgt. Terri L. Rogers, 142nd Fighter Wing, Oregon
"I cannot thank you all enough for the tremendous work that you do each and every day," said Col. Mary Salcido, director of Air Guard Recruiting and Retention. "I feel a great passion for the outstanding people in recruiting and retention."
They are celebrating, because the Air Guard's recruiters and retainers are on a two-year win streak with back-to-back fiscal year end-strength goals exceeded. It's a dramatic turnaround from years of missed goals.
In January, the Air Guard reported its monthly accession goal of 470 Airmen was exceeded with a total of 563 Airmen, or 120 percent. In December, it was 154 percent.
The numbers are proof of their success, but challenges remain in officer recruiting and in filling technical vacancies and the health professions. But Salcido told the crowd that she is extremely confident that they would excel.
"We set our goal this year . battlefield weather was our hard-to-fill, and we filled them, just like that," said Tech. Sgt. Jeremee H. Tate, the recruiter of the year, who brought in 101 people in 2009, which is nearly double the yearly work of one recruiter. "I recruited 70 people the year before, and then I stepped it up," he said, smiling. Tate admitted that the economy may have played a part in some of the success, because he did see bigger crowds at the job fairs. "But I would like to say that it's also the hard work that we did," he said. In the last year, Tate's wing went from 89 percent manned to 106 percent manned.
But it's not just about numbers and percentages and goals. It's about people. Tate said his job is not complete until he follows each new individual through their initial training.
"We're the first people they see when they get back [from training], and I get to see that transition from civilian to Airman, and that's cool," he said. "Then, I actually see them working, supporting and functioning in the unit, and that's cool too."
Senior Master Sgt. Connie M. Bacik of the Wisconsin Air National Guard agrees. She spent most of her military career as a recruiter - her first recruiting position was in 1994. "I love being able to help people achieve their goals," she said just before the award ceremony. "I've brought people in as cooks and seen them become pilots . I didn't just put somebody in, I got them in the right place and helped them get to their future . my feeling is that we recruit somebody for 20 years, not their first term." In fact, three of the Air Guard recruiters in her state were recruited by her. Bacik climbed her way up the recruiting and retention ladder to the state's top recruiting position. As a superintendent, she advises and supports two Air Guard flying wings and a geographically separated unit and coordinates and communicates with the National Guard Bureau. She credited the success to her team and to her skills as a motivator.
Filling critical vacancies was a big motivator last year, and officials said Bacik focused her team to fill them. The Wisconsin Air Guard also suddenly found itself in need of 100 maintenance Airmen for a new mission. Her recruiting team met those challenges, she said. Recruiters from outside the unit helped fill those maintenance positions. Then a recruiting competition among them brought in 61 new Guard members between July and September with 51 of them filling their critically needed vacancies. "My team is fantastic. I have a great team," she said.
Now, with vacancies and technical schools filling up and even some of the critical vacancies filling, Bacik said a growing concern is that she can only put people where there are actual positions. Another concern is the wait times for technical schools. Some new recruits tire of waiting for a school and cross over to the other services.
"It's really against my grain to turn away qualified people," Bacik said. "But we have been there before, and we will get through it."