JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas –
Air Force Recruiting Service, Detachment 1, hit the streets of Houston Feb. 22-25 to inspire young people in multiple school districts, colleges, clubs and volunteer organizations.
Det. 1’s primary mission is to inform, influence and inspire the next generation of rated aviators.
“The initial vision for the Houston Blitz was for our new members to integrate with local recruiters and schools in the area,” said Maj. Kelly McNerney, Det. 1 director of operations. “Our team was bolstered by the support of the local recruiters and our own Aviation Inspiration Mentors (AIM) who volunteered to participate, making this week a phenomenal success in connecting with underrepresented groups.”
The AIM program allows Det. 1 to connect young people with Air Force mentors from rated career fields that they could pursue. For this event, Capt. Wesley Cobb, a C-40 B/C pilot from the 1st Airlift Squadron at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, was selected to participate with a Det. 1 team and tell his own story to students who might not have considered an aviation career.
“It’s important to continue this method of outreach,” Cobb said. “In a city like Houston, there are so many talented and hardworking individuals who don’t know all of the opportunities that are out there.”
Cobb graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado, in 2014, and initially was assigned as a C-17 Globemaster III pilot. He currently transports senior civilian and military leaders of the military to destinations throughout the world.
“I was one of those students who weren’t aware of all these opportunities,” Cobb said. “If it hadn’t been for my parents and a few instrumental mentors I would have never been able to accept a football scholarship and apply for the Air Force Academy.”
On the first day of the Blitz, the team hit the ground running, visiting three Houston area schools and meeting the local recruiters who would be paving the way to a successful rest of the week.
“We knew when we developed this vision, that we would need the expertise of the recruiters local to this area, who know how to best connect with the community,” said Master Sgt. Cherelle Terry, a Det. 1 member and event lead for the Houston Blitz. “This has been a really rewarding experience to talk with these future Airmen about opportunities, careers and the future of their education, things that they maybe hadn’t thought about yet.”
For Terry, her new position at Det. 1 was an adjustment from her usual “field recruiter” role. Her time spent recruiting opened the doors to a successful Blitz engaging almost 2,200 students over the course of the week.
“We’re liaisons for those young future aviators to connect with AIM mentors and get started on their pathway to wings. After spending so much time in a traditional recruiter position, I had to transition from recruiting students to informing, influencing and inspiring these young aspiring aviators,” Terry said.
To cover more areas, Det. 1 was divided into teams designated for specific audiences with tailored information and opportunities for those students. This also allowed the leadership team to fully immerse themselves into the campuses where Det. 1 was hosting their General Officer Inspire presentations. GO Inspire is an Air Force-wide program that encourages general officers to engage schools and provide a real-life example for young people.
“The goal of GO Inspire intentionally aims to engage with a minority-serving institution which allows us to also connect with underrepresented groups,” Terry said. “Each time we connect with one of the 774 minority-serving institutions, we’re also informing, influencing and inspiring students to rise above the unknown and join an aviation career field.”
The second day of the Blitz was packed with seven speaking engagements. Events were in-person or virtual for the teams. There was a GO Inspire event featuring Brig. Gen. Matthew Barker, the Chief of Staff of the Air National Guard at the University of Houston, a minority-serving institution, for members of an organization known as L.E.G.A.C.I. which stands for leadership, excellence, grades, access, collaboration and identity.
“With the lack of military exposure in a lot of non-military cities, people think you join the service as a last resort, which isn’t true. It can be a good ‘plan A’ as well,” Cobb said.
After a short break for dinner, the team moved right into their virtual event for the night, the first presentation for Det. 1 of their newly rebranded, Rise Above Aviation Mentorship webinar.
“Previously this virtual webinar was titled Pathway to Wings, however, we decided it was time to capitalize on the best part of the presentations,” said Maj. Matthew Roland, Det. 1 Director of Inspire Operations, “The mentorship after the presentation has always been the most robust discussion.”
Roland said that RAAM lets attendees of all ages ask questions ranging from how to apply to the Air Force Academy to how current enlisted members can commission to become an aviator.
RAAM presentations allow youth from all across the U.S. to join in, listen and discuss the potential options the Air Force can offer to people of all backgrounds, races, ethnicities and genders. Virtual presentations were created due to the limitations in travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the team continues to see many interested youth, young adults and influencers sign up for every presentation.
“As the global environment continues to change, connecting with youth becomes more and more important,” said Lt. Col. Jay Park, Det. 1 commander. “The diversity of thought, backgrounds and beliefs are critical to the Air Force’s mission success in the most interconnected and technologically advanced environment we’ve ever experienced. Therefore, it’s vital for us to improve diversity in order to make us a stronger and more lethal force.”
Det. 1 and its volunteers are seeing success.
“Whether it’s high fives at a high school or proofreading a U.S. Air Force ROTC scholarship application, Det. 1 continues to make great strides in mentoring youth in the endless possibilities they could find within the Air Force,” Park said.
For more information visit www.airforce.com/rise-above.