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Total Force Recruiting: The first step to winning the high-end fight

Master Sgt. Daniel Bedford, Air Force Recruiting Service national events program manager, and Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Goldstrom, AFRS command chief, pose for a photo at the AIR RAID QB SIM Experience during the Super Bowl LV Experience outside of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, Jan. 31, 2021.

Master Sgt. Daniel Bedford, Air Force Recruiting Service national events program manager, and Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Goldstrom, AFRS command chief, pose for a photo at the AIR RAID QB SIM Experience during the Super Bowl LV Experience outside of Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, Jan. 31, 2021. The Super Bowl was the first major Total Force recruiting event since the onset of the COVID-19, which restricted travel and crowds at events. (Courtesy photo)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --

As I prepared to assume responsibilities as the Command Chief for Air Force Recruiting Service, an organization recently re-tooled as an Air Force Total Force command, I found myself trying to understand this new mantra of “Total Force Recruiting.” To truly answer though, I had to start with the “why” of Total Force Recruiting. Why does Total Force Recruiting really matter and why should my fellow Airmen care?

Essentially, I found the answer to simply be that we are indeed stronger together – one Air Force, one brand, one value proposition projected to America. At its core, Total Force Recruiting unites the regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard into one powerful recruiting and marketing establishment. Gone are the days of competing, one component against the other, as if we were all part of different teams or organizations. Together, we inspire, engage, and recruit the most talented and qualified young Americans. Together we put our best foot forward and give our best pitch on the opportunities in our Air Force; full or part-time, in or out of uniform. And together we engage with the American public as one Air Force and enable Americans to discover the best way to serve.   

Make no mistake, we’re in a battle for talent today in an age where fewer young Americans are drawn to military service. And why is that important? Our future readiness and the national security of our nation depend on it. And as Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown says “we must accelerate change or lose.” Our recruiting and training pipeline is the lifeblood of our Air Force and our Space Force. We’re in competition, not only with our sister services, but the private sector as we seek to hire the best America has to offer. But recent studies tell us that less than half of qualified and eligible applicants can even name all the military services. Even more, a recent Reagan National Defense Survey found that public trust and confidence in the military has slid from 70% in 2018, to 56% today.

Because of this, the recruiting enterprise must refocus in order to attract new Airmen and Guardians by appealing to their interests and their desire to make a difference in the world. To that end, through a combined marketing effort, we are delivering ads through social media, television, sporting events, theaters and more. With our newly combined effort, buying power is up and we’re reaching more Americans with the “Big Air Force” brand while clearly showing that there are multiple ways to serve …  in your hometown or across the globe. 

But the real driving force behind Total Force Recruiting is more than 3,200 RegAF, Guard and Reserve recruiters across our Air Force. In order to be successful with this new approach, it requires a significant mindset shift within our formation, and, above all, it requires trust. In some ways this change in how we recruit seems all too obvious and a change whose time has certainly come.

Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, our Air Force Recruiting Service commander, said “We cannot afford to be a Blockbuster in a Netflix world.”  This is a call to action, adopting a Total Force Recruiting mindset as operations across all components. It’s just smart business and how we operate today as we protect and ensure the readiness of the force. It has been my observation that only as a total force can our organization succeed and ensure our formation is resourced with talented, innovative, and dedicated Airmen and Guardians to fly, fight, and win as we protect space for all. 

So the answer to “why Total Force Recruiting?” Because there are Americans who wish to serve part-time while continuing private sector goals or education. “Why Total Force Recruiting?”  Because there are citizens interested in serving and performing state missions. “Why Total Force Recruiting?” Because there are Americans who wish to serve out of uniform or as part of the active service. What is Total Force Recruiting? It is Air Force Recruiting Service. Why Total Force Recruiting? Because winning the high-end fight requires nothing less than working seamlessly together as one big Air Force team. Aim High and Semper Supra!