Air Guard Recruiters press on with award winning team

By Staff Sgt. Mike R. Smith, Guard Times Staff

LATHAM — Staff Sgt. Joana Galli understands and embraces the challenges of recruiting people into the Air National Guard.

That’s why she joined the 109th Airlift Wing’s recruiting team in October 2005, transferring from the Connecticut Air National Guard.

“There are five of us, here … I’m the rookie,” Galli said.

Galli is usually the first Airman to meet and greet visitors with a welcoming smile to the 109AW’s recruiting office. She hopes to enlist as many of those visitors as she can.

With its current strength numbers holding somewhere around 95 percent, the New York Air National Guard continues to look at projected losses to develop yearly recruiting goals and transform its approach to maintain an appealing choice for enlistees. On the front lines, honing themselves as the NYANG’s critical edge is an award winning, and relatively young, team of recruiters. Some, including Galli, are fresh from recruiters’ school, but these new recruiters are coming into their own, in fact, they have been recognized among some of the nation’s best (see side-bar).

“They are motivated,” said Senior Master Sgt. N. Dion Adamson, State Recruiting and Retention Superintendent, NYANG. “We have 24 NYANG recruiters of which 15 are rookies.” Retirements over the past few years have passed the recruiting mission to these “rookies”.

Compared nationally, the NYANG has a large annual recruiting goal, and a broad-based staff to meet it with recruiting offices at each ANG Base. These offices are primarily responsible for their individual Air Wings, but State, regional and national recruitment are included. The NYANG offices are part of the ANG’s Region Five, which encompasses N.Y., N.J. and the New England states.

“As a region, we work well together, and our common goal is 100 percent manning,” Adamson said.

Galli has enlisted four new Guard members since her arrival.

“At first, it’s hard because no one knows you … you have to get yourself out in the community,” Galli said. Her business cards are a mainstay for this; she has handed out nearly 1,000 cards since November.

Recruiting for the Air National Guard is a special duty assignment, normally lasting four years, but assignments are extended on a case-by-case basis. After training, recruiters are mandated a specific goal of recruitments per month, which changes annually.

The National Guard Bureau’s recruiting goal is three recruits per-recruiter, per-month. Adamson is allowed to set an additional goal to meet the State’s strength requirement. He said his top recruiters exceed the three-recruit goal regularly and only drop to quotas during their more challenging months. But he admitted that these goals can be stressful, and today’s goals do not always reflect future, unforeseen challenges.

Since her arrival, Galli’s recruiting goals were matched with her skills; in her first month, she was assigned one enlistment, then two enlistments the following month, and now she is expected to meet the NGB goal.

“To make quotas, you have to find your knack,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. It’s been good, and it feels great when I find a match.”

Galli said that the experienced recruiters take the time to explain programs, paperwork and challenging situations. “I see how they handle situations and try to find my own way, using their advice,” she said.

Some of the current and future challenges in recruitment include expanding the Guard’s relationship with schools and families. Adamson said the Air National Guard is rethinking the way it sells itself, and it recently hired an independent company to help transform its aggressive recruiting style.

“Today, not only do we attract the recruit, we appeal to the family,” Adamson said. “The Guard is a family, we live by that. So, we show the family what their loved one is joining by inviting them to visit their Wing.”

“If the family wants to come out with them, I encourage it, Galli said. “It allows them to walk around the base, see who’s here, and meet those who love the job.”

As recruiters, Adamson said they want to sell the “right tool” by finding out what the recruit’s “real need” is. He explained that someone may, at first, say they want to join the Guard to “get away from home”, but discover later that what they really wanted was a specific training or benefit.

“If you don’t find out what their real need is, it will affect their retention. Putting people ahead of the numbers, in the long run, benefits all,” Adamson said.

Word-of-mouth recruitment – also called “unit member referral” – is the ANG’s greatest source of recruitment; the ANG’s web site, http://www.goang.com, runs second. But leads are the most basic and beginning part of the recruiting process, Adamson said. “They are as basic as a name and phone number on a piece of paper.”

“Phone calls on 20 leads do not make 20 enlistments,” Adamson said. Maybe one in 20 leads qualify for enlistment when you submit them through tests, background checks, age requirements and physical exams. It’s that filtering process recruiters spend much of their time on. The worst part of the job, Adamson said, is finding someone who wants to join but can’t because they don’t meet an Air Force standard.

“It’s hard to tell someone who wants to enlist that they don’t qualify,” Adamson said. “We genuinely want to help them.”

To save everyone’s time, Galli said she tries to answer qualification standards before scheduling interviews. She can also suggest study materials and techniques for “We abide by standards; unfortunately, some people don’t meet them, but that’s the Guard,” Galli said.

“There’s a unique situation with every person, and I try to find a way that benefits both the enlistee and the Guard.”

The average enlistee joins for a median of college and incentive programs, wants to serve their state and community and get career training, Adamson said, but what satisfies them is being a part of something larger.

“We still get a lot of kids that join for the college money, more than ever,” Adamson said. But Adamson went on to say that there’s a challenge to retain them after graduation. “The Airmen that stay are the patriotic ones who love the mission and their service to the community.”

After 9/11, the NYANG witnessed a surge in recruitment, but that wave ebbed, and Adamson said it’s important for communities to remember the need for a strong National Guard. The NYANG’s rookie recruiters may need to sell that message, and time will tell of their success.

“Experienced recruiters say it takes six months to a year to discover the job fully and whether it fits you,” Galli said. “I’m still learning, but for me, I like it.”

“The drive is something that’s in you … you see the opportunities all around,” Adamson said. If you’re at dinner, you try to recruit the waiter, and if you’re on the operating table, you try to recruit your nurse, which he did.

“That nurse now serves with the 174th Fighter Wing,” he said.

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