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Air Force Recruiting expedites virtual teleconferencing tool amid COVID-19 pandemic

By Master Sgt. Chance Babin | Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs | April 21, 2020

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas —

Air Force Recruiting Service has been working on ways to perform recruiting activities virtually. With the COVID-19 crisis, many of those plans are being expedited to allow AFRS recruiters to continue working to inspire, engage and recruit the best and brightest to serve in the U.S. Air Force.

Recently, AFRS collaborated with Zoom for Government to create an innovative virtual teleconferencing option for recruiters everywhere to have secure meetings with potential applicants seeking opportunities in the Air Force.

The intent is to connect applicants, recruiters, support personnel, leadership, and Department of Defense civilian counterparts under one umbrella.

“It is a cultural change in the way we are able to recruit and engage within AFRS and with our civilian applicants,” said Master Sgt. Mary Schroeder, 314th Recruiting Squadron, training and marketing NCO, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. “We are able to now have an alternate means of communicating that is secure and approved by the Department of Defense. Any applicant or recruiter now has the ability to connect on a common virtual location using any device from any location.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic, military travel has been extremely limited and recruiters have found innovative ways to continue working toward their goal.

Air Force recruiters are faced daily with challenges and often work long hours traveling to meet recruits, conduct training and complete other tasks in their daily life.

 “We have a very unique mission within AFRS, one that no other command in the Air Force has,” Schroeder said. “Having the ability to connect with potential applicants using any device on a secure and authorized platform to conduct recruiting business is paramount. Now, as we navigate through this pandemic, VTC must be the primary source for all meetings, collaborations and recruiting activities with applicants,” Schroeder said.

The VTC concept is something Schroeder has been wanting to have become a reality from her experiences as a recruiter.

“The idea was sparked by my personal experiences as an enlisted accessions recruiter followed by a health professions recruiter and now as a trainer,” Schroeder said. “I was limited in my ability to recruit as a geographically separated member.”

In June 2019, her VTC idea was submitted to the AFRS Innovation Cell. The Innovation Cell takes in ideas from the field and helps facilitate those ideas by finding the correct people to help coordinate and develop the idea before it is presented to AFRS leadership.

“The process was lengthy because research and due diligence had to occur – researching the companies that have the capabilities required to support the vision then narrowing them down to those that were DoD approved,” Schroeder said. “After that was accomplished, the real work began with workshop visits, company evaluations and cross-checking with other DOD entities currently using the same products.”

Schroeder’s idea was a family affair. Her husband was the subject matter expert as he spent 12 years within the recruiting service as a client systems technician. After looking at several options, Zoom was chosen, in part due to its security.

“Unlike the two commercial options Zoom offers, Zoom for Government meetings are only conducted over two servers located within the continental United States,” said Staff Sgt. Kevin Schroeder, 622nd Contingency Response Squadron, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “With the free options offered there’s a high risk of data being sold to third parties and being shared. As for the safety of using this platform, if policy governing the usage of this product is vetted and set in place, I don’t see any issues arising in the future.”

Zoom for Government is approved under the US Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, with the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This authorization allows U.S. federal government agencies and contractors to securely use Zoom for Government for video meetings, API integrations and more. FedRAMP is a government-wide program that provides a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization, and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.

Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, conducted a virtual coining of Schroeder and her team on Zoom to congratulate them. The commander said they couldn’t have had more perfect timing and that it would serve as a force multiplier and make recruiters more effective.

 “She is someone who inspires me as a female Airman and since arriving at AFRS has been a true innovator,” Schroeder said. “I was extremely honored and will forever remember that moment as one of the greatest achievements in my Air Force career.”

An added advantage of using VTC going forward is that it will save money and time for AFRS and its recruiters. 

“Our initial planning was to implement this when and where it makes sense starting at 20 to 25 percent of our annual expenditure on TDYs (temporary duty assignments) and training,” Schroeder said. “This number could equate to hundreds of thousands of dollars saved annually.”

The Zoom VTC is already paying dividends with keeping training up to date, according to Master Sgt. Patrick Lott, 331st Recruiting Squadron flight chief, Jackson, Mississippi

“We got overwhelmingly positive feedback from more than 600 personnel who attended our training sessions,” he said. We came up with the idea of doing a Zoom cast, almost like a daily podcast for training recruiters on the digital forefront. We were able to screen share both from the computer and iPhone to show recruiters how they can use social media effectively to engage with our key demographic. We hope to keep delivering the training and help as many recruiters as possible.”

With the current restrictions on travel due to COVID-19, VTC will enable recruiters to continue recruiting, training and carry on their mission to inspire, engage and recruit the best and brightest to serve in the U.S. Air Force.