JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Two new members of the Air Force Sergeants Association Board of Directors are Air Force recruiters.
This summer, Master Sgt. Blake Manuel, 348th Recruiting Squadron Officer Accessions flight chief in Clearfield, Utah, was elected as international vice president, the second-highest position in the AFSA. One of his recruiters, Master Sgt. James Zwiebel, was just assigned Division 6 president.
“Having two recruiters serving on the board of directors makes me proud, and I’m happy to represent our command across the globe,” said Manuel. “I am continuing to expand the reach and impact that recruiters have across our 125 chapters, through networking and making them aware of how their unique skill sets can improve their local AFSA chapter. At this time we have five recruiters that are serving as chapter presidents or vice presidents, and I am hoping that recruiters' influence and impact continues to expand and aid AFSA’s mission of improving quality of life.”
Manuel has been involved with AFSA since 2015 and eventually became chapter president at Tinker Air Force Base in 2017. Since being stationed at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, in 2018, he progressed from a division trustee to Division 6 VP, president, and then just recently was elected to international VP all in the span of two and a half years.
AFSA, headquartered in Suitland, Maryland, is governed by a 14-person board of directors which consists of an international president, vice president, seven division presidents, and trustees for uniformed services, family matters and retired and veteran’s affairs, as well as a senior adviser and an executive director who serve as non-voting members. There are seven divisions and 125 chapters throughout the world with a membership strength of 75,000
“AFSA is an important organization because we are all about advocating for, and improving quality of life for our Airmen, Guardians, and their families through advocacy and education,” Manuel said. “We do this at the local level through chapters at every base and also through the legislative process on Capitol Hill. Quality of life issues and benefits affects each and every member of the uniformed services and their families, so the reach and impact of our efforts are vast.”
As the Division 6 president, Zwiebel directly leads 21 chapter presidents at Air Force and Space Force bases in six Southwest U.S. states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah.
“I have been lucky enough to be a part of successful teams at each level of my AFSA experience with a heavy emphasis on ‘lucky,’” Zwiebel said. “These teams have kept me motivated. They encouraged me and elected me to serve at the next level. As a chapter president, I was able to serve 500, however, as a division president I am able to serve 10,000.”
All members of the board of directors are volunteers, with the exception of the executive director and his staff in Washington, D.C. The division structure allows for leadership, development, and management of the 125 chapters.
“This is a huge responsibility for International Vice President Manuel and me,” Zwiebel said. “We have had great men and women in AFSA mentoring, coaching, sponsoring and investing in us. These selfless servants guided our motivation, encouraged our attitude, and pushed us toward opportunity. As recruiters we have skill sets that are valuable to any professional organization, go apply them to an organization that you believe in.”
Zwiebel said he was inspired by former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Robert Gaylor who he remembers saying aptitude defines what you are able to do, motivation defines what you will do, attitude defines how well you will do it, and opportunity is when the door opens and they call your name.
“Having passionate members in our AFSA is first and foremost,” said retired Chief Master Sgt. Kerry Wright, AFSA International President. “Having passionate Air Force recruiters as part of our association only makes us a stronger association due to their outreach, connections and diversity. Having Air Force recruiters in AFSA leadership positions provides our association with relevant, up-to-date, leaders that understand and advocate for quality of life issues that are important to our enlisted force and their families.”
Manuel said AFSA was started by four noncommissioned officers in 1961, but throughout the 1980s and 1990s, a majority of the leadership was of an older, retired generation. Recently, the annual conventions have been filled with a majority of active-duty uniformed members.
“I recognized that the uniformed delegates at the annual convention wanted someone to represent them who was one of them, someone currently serving in the Air Force,” Manuel said. “The last uniformed international president or international vice president was over 35 years ago. I hope my election to international VP is the start of a new wave of more uniformed members wanting to serve at the highest levels of leadership within the AFSA.”