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Air Force meets recruiting goal for seventh straight year

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Oct. 13, 2006) -- The Air Force met its recruiting goal for the seventh year in a row, but still faces challenges, said officials Oct. 12.

In fiscal 2006, the Air Force brought in 30,889 individuals, exceeding its target by 130 Airmen, said Brig. Gen. Suzanne M. Vautrinot, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service.

"We've had an extraordinarily successful year, not just in bringing the right number of people in, but we brought in the right number, the right quality, with the right skill sets, at exactly the right time," she said.

General Vautrinot said the Air Force also met goal to put new Airmen into critical enlisted jobs such as pararescue, combat control, linguists and certain health professions.

The general said she believes recent Air Force marketing strategies such as the real-life testimonies of Airmen that have been featured on television and on the Air Force's "Do Something Amazing" Web site have contributed to the solid recruitment numbers.

"I think they are effective because it is not about selling anything," she said. "It is about telling a story. (It) is an amazing thing. Two years ago, this young person was in high school, and now he is disarming bombs with robotics. The ad campaign ... tells people what Airmen every single day are doing. People say 'Wow, I can do that.'"

As part of the "Do Something Amazing" campaign, Airmen describe their part of the Air Force mission on camera. Those testimonies are featured on television and online. The Air Force has filmed about 24 of the testimonies, but plans to add more.

General Vautrinot said the Web site has already generated some 200,000 visits. Those visits often lead visitors to the primary recruiting Web site, where potential Airmen can talk to Air Force recruiters.

While the Air Force has had great success in meeting its recruiting goals over the past seven years, General Vautrinot said the service is still having problems in certain areas. In particular, the Air Force is having problems recruiting nurses, physicians and dentists.

Part of the problem is the exceedingly long process of vetting medical professionals for acceptance into the Air Force, she explained.

"When these people graduate from their schools, they need a job," she said. "If the county and the city and private industry can hire them faster, then they are not going to wait around for a job in the Air Force."

The Air Force recently used Air Force Smart Operations 21 to streamline its process for accepting medical professionals.

"What we have been able to do is take about five months out of the process," she said. "Basically, we did away with a board process that was very long term and tedious, and pretty much came to the same conclusion our consultants did. We also had the help of (the Office of the Secretary of Defense) because they shortened their timelines, as did the Air Staff, in the processing of these health professionals."

The Air Force also is using bonuses and scholarships to help recruit more medical professionals into the service.

Finally, General Vautrinot said there might be a misconception that the Air Force is not hiring.

"There is this misconception that because the Air Force is force shaping, that somehow we are not hiring," she said. "We are absolutely hiring."

General Vautrinot said the Air Force is now focusing its hiring on individuals who exhibit exceptional academic and physical prowess as well as strong aptitudes for science, engineering, math and linguistics.