by MSgt. Louis A. Arana-Barradas
Air Force News Service
WASHINGTON -- Though Air Force didn't reach its recruiting goal the first eight months of fiscal 1995 -- for the first time in 16 years -- it's still signing top recruits.
Air Force met 97.7 percent of its 20,800 recruiting goal through May, just 474 recruits short, said Maj. David E. Bertrand, chief of the recruiting service's production analysis section.
However, the dip wasn't due to a lack of people wanting to join the service, said Maj. Joe Adams, chief of the Air Force Recruiting Service's analysis branch.
The shortfall was caused, in part, by a recruiter shortage and tougher Department of Defense entry guidelines, Adams said.
But Air Force should still meet its overall 31,000-recruit goal for the year, Adams said. "We should pick up the extra people (we didn't get during the last eight months) this summer. The summer months are traditionally our most productive."
If the summer upswing isn't sufficient to meet quota needs, recruiting service officials said they'd have to "borrow from the bank" of recruits scheduled to enter in fiscal year 1996. That would mean moving applicants to fill "near-term requirements" -- like moving someone from a December entry date to a June date.
However, if they have to dip into next year's recruit reserves, recruiting service officials are concerned about meeting fiscal 1996 goals. To make up for any potential loss in the recruit bank, Air Force has authorized additional advertising money and recruiters.
Compared to the other services, the Air Force is still getting most of what DOD classifies as "high-quality" recruits -- "those with high school diplomas who score above average on the entrance examinations," Bertrand said. Above-average recruits score more than 50 percent in the test's four sections.
A June 7 DOD news release stated 65 percent of all recruits signed during the first half of the fiscal year were high quality. Of the Air Force recruits, 83 percent were high quality; 61 percent of both Army and Marine Corps recruits were high quality; and the Navy's rate was 59 percent.
The Air Force is not having problems getting the people it needs to fill administrative and "high tech" jobs, like in medical and computer science fields, Adams said. "We're only having problems filling all our mechanical jobs -- mainly because most of today's recruits aren't inclined to do those kinds of jobs."
However, some of the "production problems" the Air Force is having right now are being caused because it doesn't have as many recruiters in the field as it once had, Adams said.
Over the past few years, he said the number of Air Force recruiters has been cut to coincide with the service downsizing. But the competition to sign top quality recruits continues, and for every Air Force recruiter there are "12 Army, Navy or Marine recruiters out there."
To help remedy that imbalance, Adams said the recruiting service received about 80 more recruiter slots this year.
Another reason for the recruiting slowdown is that minimum entry requirements for almost all jobs have gone up over the past few years. And DOD toughened the screening process for applicants who have asthma or who gave undergone any kind of counseling.
"These are needed quality-control measures, but they slow down the entry process because of all the prescreening and paperwork involved," Adams said.
Nevertheless, the quality of its recruits has always been the Air Force's number one priority and Adams said that aspect of the blue-suit force will not be sacrificed just to meet quotas.
"By getting quality people, we get a big payback," he said. "If you bring quality in the front door, you have less attrition in basic training and technical school -- and those people have fewer problems throughout their careers."
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