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Air Force seeks bilingual recruiters

By Air Force Recruiting Service | Nov. 29, 2006

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas — For Master Sgt. Ruben Perez, communicating with potential recruits involves much more than simply promoting careers in the Air Force. The 341st Recruiting Squadron recruiter's ability to "habla Espanol" with San Antonio's inner city youth and surrounding small-town Mexican-Americans helps him connect with his local community.

Because of that community connection, Air Force Recruiting Service encourages Spanish-speaking Airmen of the rank senior airman with at least 36 months time in service through master sergeant with less than 17 years of total active federal military service to apply for recruiting duty. Those selected could be placed in one of 80 stateside recruiting positions in cities such as San Antonio, Texas; Los Angeles, Calif; Omaha, Neb.; Boston, Mass.; and Miami, Fla., where the ability to speak in Spanish is "highly desired," said Chief Master Sgt. Lester Harvey, Air Force Recruiting Service recruiting screening team chief.

Although the young adults with whom Sergeant Perez interacts speak English fluently, the Airman's ability to converse with the potential recruit's Spanish-speaking family is beneficial. Relationships developed by the recruiter through conversations with the relatives help put the potential recruit at ease with the idea of joining the military and possibly being stationed away from home, he said.

"It's not unusual for the entire family - parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles - to be involved in their son or daughter's decision to join," said Sergeant Perez, a Mexican-American raised in El Paso. "Hispanics are very family oriented and uphold traditions."

Although Airman Consuela Martinez and her mother are bilingual, the recruiter's ability to advise "Connie" in two common languages and converse with her Spanishspeaking
stepfather helped alleviate the home-schooled graduate's separation anxieties, she said.

"I was worried about moving away from home, but Sergeant Perez was straight forward with me and my family, sharing everything I would deal with in the military," she said. "Throughout my time in basic training he stayed in contact with my mother, explaining to her what I was learning that week because she worried about how I was doing."

Today Airman Martinez serves at Langley Air Force Base, Va., as a 1st Medical Operations Squadron healthservices management apprentice. Although the 19-year-old
misses her family in Pleasanton, Texas, she has toured New York City, looks forward to attending college classes using her tuition assistance benefits, and enjoys her new
independent lifestyle, she said.

Of the 50 young adults Sergeant Perez has brought into the Air Force during his two years, about 40 are from Spanish-speaking homes. Being able to offer career opportunities to young adults, who, like himself, may not have had the opportunity to go to college or travel around the world otherwise, is fulfilling, he said.

"I became a recruiter because I wanted to serve as a positive role model for other Hispanic youth," the 19-year veteran said. "The relationships I've developed over the
years make it all worthwhile."

Airmen interested in becoming a recruiter can visit the Air Force Recruiting Service Web site at www.afrecruiting.com, and then click on the "Becoming a Recruiter" link for details.