Searching for the best individuals to fit into the Air Force’s values and mission is better served through diversity, according to one Air National Guard recruiter.
“The idea has always been to hire the best individual,” said Tech. Sgt. Edwin Fisher Jr., a production recruiter with the Idaho Air National Guard. “And the only way to do that is finding people with different perspectives, that kind of gets us away from our own local biases that we all hold.”
As such, the military force tirelessly deploys the spirit of diversity in its recruiting efforts of enlisted personnel.
“The Air Force was compelled to undertake [a] diversity mission because we want to attract and recruit the best talent from a diverse background, to cultivate a high performing and innovative Air Force,” said Master Sgt. Peter Elefante, an Air Force Reserve recruiter in Southern California.
Diversity through recruitment
And the Air Force is attempting to accomplish the mission through its recruiters.
“I deal with the new incoming recruiters, so all the recruiters who are going to go out to their respective locations and recruit, whether it’s active duty, Air National Guard or Air Force Reserve, we get to see them all,” said Master Sgt. Jody Reed, instructor at the Air Force Recruiter School 344th TRS/TTR Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas. “So our job is to educate them on the type of people that we need to put into the Air Force.”
Reed said the Air Force hasn’t established diversity goals per se, but strongly encourages awareness, tasking recruiters to be diligently cognizant of the mission.
“You know, sending them out there with that on their mind, and hopefully they start bringing in that more diverse culture for the Air Force,” he said.
The Air Force states that reservists merit an inclusive environment that fosters diversity. But onboarding reservists, active duty or guardsmen can be challenging. Only 25% of youth or young adults meet the criteria to become airmen.
“Our recruiting pool is very small – of the 31.2 million American youth ages 17-24, only 3% are qualified with high school degrees and score in the top half of the [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] ASVAB,” Christine Cuttita, an Air Force Recruiting Service public affairs officer at the Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, wrote in an email.
Elefante agreed, noting the tests seven categories.
“The medical, physical aspect, the overweight, mental health, drugs, conduct, dependence and aptitude,” he said. “…We go by the basis of the metrics of that. And the percentage of people that are qualified to serve, it’s a small percentage.”
‘We want to get in front of devoted people’
The Air Force’s highly selective process is reflected in that testing. Most of the branch’s recruits score 50 or higher on the ASVAB, but the enlistment requirement is 36, according to Indeed career development.
“As we move forward, we’re measuring improvement by comparing the specific diversity percentage of our recruits with the diversity of the American people,” Cuttita said.
But the challenges remain the same, according to Fisher.
“A quarter of our people here in the state are qualified, even less than that… So our challenge, our obstacle, is getting the message out to that 25% and increasing the propensity of that smaller percentage,” Fisher said.
The Air Force’s multiformity mission seeks determined individuals willing to engage and offer a differing point of view.
“We want to get in front of devoted people that are ready to listen and make an action,” Fisher said. “And then can bring their unique look and perspective to make us different.”
For more information about joining the Air Force, visit the USAF website.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Air Force does not have an official diversity policy. It has since been corrected.Read comments