JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Air Force Recruiting Service is turning up the heat this summer with a Special Warfare recruiting surge. The idea is to stockpile potential warriors in the developmental pool to have them ready for Basic Military Training by fiscal year 2022.
“This is an ‘all-in’ effort by our Air Force recruiters to answer the challenge,” said Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service. “We are recruiting to a highly selective set of special warfare jobs and getting the right Americans in boots and berets is critical for national security.”
The 330th RCS, based in San Antonio, is a dedicated Special Warfare recruiting squadron, composed of numerous recruiters coming from an operational Special Warfare background. They are aided by traditional enlisted accession recruiters throughout the command who refer candidates to the program.
“It is of the utmost importance to have a healthy development pool at all times in order to send only the best, most qualified applicants to BMT and follow-on pipelines,” said Lt. Col. Steven Cooper, 330th RCS. “We expect our overall FY22 mission objective to be about the same as FY21’s. However, we will ship more frequently, which means if the development pool does not grow, on average, our Special Warfare Operator Enlistment applicants will spend 15% less time in development.”
He said the data overwhelmingly supports the notion that the longer applicants develop, the higher their likelihood of success in the Special Warfare pipelines.
“If we do not have a healthy development pool, our chances of realizing the mission objective drastically decreases,” Cooper said.
The summer surge provides an avenue to assure a healthy development pool going into fiscal 2022.
“This is an effort to saturate the development pool, increase candidates and build toward a competitive model, where candidates are stratified and prioritized,” said Lt. Col. Joseph Lopez, AFRS Special Warfare and Combat Support Accessions Branch. “This AFRS surge will fortify enlisted accession and Special Warfare squadron recruiting actions, ultimately bringing in more talent toward Special Warfare, through the remainder of the fiscal year under this incentive program.”
The development pool is crucial as the breeding grounds where applicants and candidates get prepared and introduced mentally and physically to face the arduous Special Warfare pipelines from 39 contracted developers across the nation. Typical time in the development pool ranges from 60 to 120 days. The surge will grow the candidate pool and increase competition with candidates as they strive to ship sooner and become the stronger candidate among peers.
“Development is led by our contracted partners at T3i, who are either all former operators or combat support,” Cooper said. “They not only physically develop our applicants, but mentally prepare them as well. They do this by telling them what to expect in training, the importance of nutrition, sharing stories of their pipelines and sharing operational stories as well.”
Beginning in fiscal 2022, Special Warfare candidates will have an increase in ship dates for BMT, also known as cohorts.
“The rationale to move from five to six cohorts synchronizes BMT start dates with follow on training at the Special Warfare Training Wing. This will align with course start dates as well as decrease students awaiting training time,” Lopez said. “Several courses our folks attend are sister service-owned so manipulating course start dates can be difficult.”
A big part of the summer surge is creating awareness within the AFRS recruiting team. While Special Warfare has its own recruiters, they are supplemented by enlisted accessions recruiters.
“Our best recruiters have the best relationships with their enlisted accessions teammates, and I stress this every chance I get,” Cooper said. “Personally, I educate each group’s squadron commanders and our flight chiefs, pro supes and ops to educate within enlisted accession RCS formations. Without our enlisted accession teammates, we cannot do what we do.”
As part of the surge, AFRS will release weekly stories highlighting Special Warfare heroes and stories of extraordinary courage. There will also be weekly video teleconference calls available to all AFRS recruiters, including those from the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard.
“Stories will include operators talking directly with AFRS for the next six weeks via Zoom about their experiences as operators,” Lopez said. “Interviews will range from recent Air Force Cross recipients to career field managers to graduated squadron commanders from around the community. In addition, AFRS will post stories of missions (Acts of Valor) where operators have been awarded for bravery in combat. The stories and interviews are aimed to be inspirational and educational from those who’ve seen combat and led complex missions around the globe.”
The culminating piece of the summer surge is a TDY for select enlisted accession recruiters to an undisclosed base to be part of immersion inside Special Warfare units.
“There, recruiters will get to see and hear from the community firsthand,” Lopez said. “They may also see students training in small unit tactics as part of their mission set in becoming future Special Warfare operators.”
For enlisted accessions recruiters, this immersion is aimed to give an inside look at Special Warfare.
“The end state is having a better understanding and appreciation of why it takes a special breed of human to want this job,” Lopez said. “We want people who are critical thinkers, independently driven, while still being strong teammates – all of that in a person who wants to join the Air Force, but in a ground combatant role. It’s difficult as we are seeking the individual who’s equally driven toward enlistment with the Army Rangers, Special Forces or Navy SEALs.”
While the summer surge does have some internal incentives for enlisted accessions recruiters who refer a Special Warfare recruit, it truly is about bringing together the recruiting family toward a common goal.
“This is definitely an avenue to optimize our recruiting talent, but also to generate some competition in the world of recruiting,” Lopez said. “It will definitely reinforce the deep connection between enlisted accessions and Special Warfare and Combat Support. The SWOE goal last year was roughly 1,050 and will be the same this year. Last year, the accession target increased 33%, which severely hampered recruiting sustainability and our development pool.”
SWOE encompasses four separate Air Force Specialty Codes; Pararescue, Combat Control, Tactical Air Control Party, and Special Reconnaissance.
While the surge is a necessary tool, Cooper hopes the need for surging declines in years to come.
“Ideally, in the future, we can decrease the incentives for Special Warfare referrals, because we all should recruit for hard-to-fill career fields with our most qualified candidates because it is the right thing to do,” he said.