Recruiters receive remarkable recognition

MOFFETT FIELD, Calif. -- As the 129th Rescue Wing's recruiting team reflects on last year's success of being named the California Air National Guard Recruiting Office of the Year for bringing in more than 180 new Airmen to the unit, they're already receiving awards this year.

The recruiting team received National Guard Bureau awards for the most critical accessions and highest average accessions for the first quarter of fiscal year 2010.

"The recruiters are doing a great job, compared to where we were when pretty much all of us first got here," said Master Sgt. Michael Vargas, the 129th recruiting office supervisor. "My goal is for us to be where everyone else in the State of California is, until we get there I'm going to keep pushing them harder and harder."

The maintenance group currently has the most job openings at the 129th RQW. Every month more than 50 percent of the applicants brought into the 129th RQW go into a maintenance career field, Sergeant Vargas said.

"Without people working on our aircraft it's difficult to keep them in the air and doing our job," said Sergeant Vargas. "Our focus right now is what we call precision recruiting. It's all about finding the right person at the right time for the right career field."

The most common request recruiters at the 129th RQW get from applicants is "I want to be a PJ" or "how can I become a pilot?" when statistically only about 5 percent of PJ applicants actually make it past the test. After explaining more options to the applicants the recruiters prescreen and qualify them for careers that are best for both the applicant and the unit, said Tech. Sgt. Khamsone Manisisaket, part of the 129th RQW recruiting team.

Contrary to popular belief, recruiters are in fact out for their applicants' best interest, they aren't paid on commission, and are by far the first people a new recruit should trust and always turn to for help.

"Sometimes the hardest thing is making the applicant see what you're trying to explain to them," Sergeant Vargas said. "It's hard to convince those people that we're going to take care of them, how marketable their career field will be in the civilian world, and what their job will be like."

Dealing with parents is usually always a challenge for recruiters as well because they have this conception about what the military is like because they only know what they've seen on television or in movies so they think their child is going to be sent to Iraq within a few months and never come back, said Sergeant Vargas.

"Unfortunately people often look at the military as a last resort," said former active duty recruiter Tech. Sgt. Rick Williams, part of the 129th RQW recruiting team. "When everything else they've tried in life fails then they consider joining the military, like they're losing. Really, they're winning, they're just viewing it wrong."

An advantage for ANG recruiters is having the unit right around the corner, so applicants can visit the base, get introduced to the people they would be working with, and physically show them what it is they are going to be doing, Sergeant Williams said.

"We try to explain that we're like the part time version of the Air Force, the hometown version. You won't be sent off to North Dakota for the next six years. You're here at home," he said. "It keeps us very honest because we'll be seeing our recruits at drill for the next couple of years so we want them to be happy. It's definitely more of a family approach."

Being such a tight knit unit, the 129th RQW's Airmen take pride in the unit, look after their fellow wingmen, and share the benefits and opportunities of the Guard to one another, said Tech. Sgt. Radek Ciesielski, a recruiter with the 129th RQW since 2009 and recipient of the Recruiter Recognition Award for enlisting 10 applicants in one month.

"One of my applicants enlisted into our maintenance unit and told his mother about the enlistment age change and a week later she enlisted into the Medical Group. Now they're in student flight together preparing to go to basic training," he said.

With new recruits from places like Jamaica, Bulgaria, Ukraine, India, Vietnam and even Belize, the 129th RQW's Airmen are extremely diverse.

"I've brought in around 32 applicants since becoming a recruiter, all with extremely different stories," said Sergeant Ciesielski.

Once a month the 129th RQW recruiting team attends big events like professional and college football games, local air shows, job fairs and high school visits. Recruiters are there to speak with interested applicants, set up appointments and represent and promote the ANG, said Sergeant Ciesielski.

"I think recruiting is the weirdest job because it's like farming, you have to plant seeds," Sergeant Williams said. "When first speaking to students at high school or college events they don't make a decision at that moment whether or not they want to join the military. They'll go home and think about it for two, three or maybe even six months before we ever hear from them. The information seeds you plant now will bear fruit later."

If you're interested in speaking with a recruiter about joining the Air National Guard or would like more information please contact:

129th Recruiting Office

284 Moffett Blvd. Ste A
Mountain View, CA 94043
FAX: 650-603-9437

Master Sgt. Michael Vargas
Recruiting Office Supervisor

Tech. Sgt. Radek "Ski" Ciesielski

Tech Sgt. Khamsone "Mani" Manisisaket

Tech Sgt. Paul "Rick" Williams