Recruiting New Recruiters: Schoolhouse trains Reservists who take the challenge

Citizen Airman/Oct. 2017 -- It has been said that the lifeblood of an organization is its people. This saying rings true for the Air Force Reserve Command and its nearly 70,000 Reserve Citizen Airmen.

The task of bringing new Airmen into the AFRC family is the responsibility of the men and women of the Air Force Reserve Command Recruiting Service, a team that has met or exceeded its goal for 17 consecutive years. But before recruiters can execute their job and bring in new Reserve Citizen Airmen required for AFRC to carry on its mission, they have to undergo intense training, which falls into the hands of a special group of total force recruiters.

The Air Force Recruiting Schoolhouse is located at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas. The school instructors teach three separate curriculums for active duty, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard members, all under the same roof.

The Reserve portion of the school receives between 40 and 50 students a year to complete the vigorous six-week training course. According to Senior Master Sgt. James Scapperotti, lead instructor for AFRC, the instructors are always looking for more Reservists to take the challenge and become recruiters.

“We want to encourage Reservists to consider applying for recruiting duty,” Scapperotti said. “We need them to help us man our Reserve units, and it’s a huge opportunity. Reservists should understand that recruiting is not only a potential career opportunity, but what we teach here can have lasting impressions in whatever they are pursuing. We aren’t just teaching recruiting. We also teach salesmanship, communication and a little bit of PME (professional military education) with a technical side. So a lot of the things that we equip our students with here are translatable to other avenues if they so desire.”

Scapperotti wants interested Reservists to know that this isn’t their fathers’ recruiting school. The course has been totally revamped and is unique in that it is 100-percent performance based. There is no written test. Everything is based on attitude and ability.

“When you come to recruiting school, you need to absolutely have an open mind,” Scapperotti said. “The course has been redesigned essentially from the ground up. A lot of the things people may have heard about recruiting school don’t necessarily exist in this curriculum anymore.”

One of the reasons the course was redesigned was to better prepare students to hit the ground running. One of the objectives was to get as much information from the job qualifications and skills list into the coursework to expedite the timeline between graduating and being certified to be a recruiter.

“We were able to get about 72 percent of the JQS documented and accomplished while here at recruiting school, and that was a big push saying we need to get closer to what we coined down here as mission-ready recruiting,” Scapperotti said.

The sergeant said the school is able to produce recruiters who are essentially self-sufficient and ready to go do the job when they get into the office.

While Scapperotti is the senior AFRC instructor, Master Sgt. Geovanny Govea is his counterpart, who came to the school with a lot of enthusiasm and hasn’t looked back.

“They say he’s the college professor, and I’m the college coach,” Govea said. “That’s the best analogy. He’s very formal and poised, and I can get kind of wild and impulsive, still within regulations. I think we work well together. I’m very high energy and optimistic, and he is just as optimistic as I am. He allows a lot of the fun to happen but still gets the training done and doesn’t lose sight of the fact that this is business.”

Part of Govea’s enthusiasm is geared toward his love of the Air Force Reserve. He thinks that once students have that belief in their organization, the sky is the limit.

“I don’t think a lot of them initially really understand what selling is,” he said. “I think once they understand if they believe in their organization, experience success and improve in life, then the lightbulb clicks and you can essentially sell the Air Force Reserve to anybody. Ultimately, we change people's lives.”

Students choose to become recruiters for various reasons, but they all realize it is a challenging career.

“I have a passion to help people and got a chance to work with a development and training flight to see what recruiting was doing,” said Staff Sgt. Brandon Pendleton, a student at the recruiting school who is assigned to the 910th Airlift Wing at Youngstown Air Reserve Base, Ohio. “It was that transition from seeing the recruiters and being able to work with the recruiters. I really liked what they were doing.”

Staff Sgt. Christine Johnson is in the process of transitioning from a military training instructor with the 323rd Training Squadron at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph to a recruiter.

“I wanted to be either an MTI or a recruiter, so I decided to do MTI first,” Johnson said. “I’m a people person. I was a young person who didn’t have a lot of direction, so if I could afford someone that same opportunity the military gave me, that would be awesome. Being an MTI, I get to transform them. But I think it will be neat to be on the other side of the coin now where I’m getting them to join before going to basic training — giving them the shot from the beginning.”

Staff Sgt. Chasity Hercher, a former Marine and currently a fitness specialist with the 482nd Fighter Wing at Homestead ARB, Florida, sees the Reserve as a great opportunity for females.

“I’ve received a lot of good training in the Air Force Reserve,” Hercher said. “But, more importantly, I feel like I belong to a family, and that is important to me. There is strength in diversity, and that is one of the great things about being in the Air Force Reserve. The Reserve was very accepting and treated me equally. When I originally joined the Reserve, I wasn’t treated like I couldn’t do the job because I was a female. I got the exact same training and was treated with respect. It gave me that confidence that I needed.

“The Air Force Reserve made such a difference in my life that I felt it would be a good opportunity for me to help other people. And having worked on orders as a Reservist, I got a chance to see what it was like to be an Airman every day. So becoming a recruiter gives me an opportunity to have career progression and to be an Airman every day.”

One of the major differences with the Reserve program versus active duty or the Guard is a guaranteed first assignment. The first duty location for Reserve recruiters is tied to academics and class rankings.

“It makes for better students,” Scapperotti said. “While they are here, our students are extremely focused and driven to succeed, because there is a competitiveness.

“It’s different for members of the active duty and Guard. They basically come here with assignments in hand knowing exactly where they are going. We are asking our Reservists to step up and get out of their comfort zone, come down here and get trained, remain focused and driven the entire time they are here to potentially get that opportunity.”

For the students, knowing their classroom performance is directly related to their future assignment keeps them focused on the tasks at hand.

“The camaraderie is good with our class,” Pendleton said. “The only stressor is we don’t know where we are going yet, and we have to be ranked. So that is always in the back of our minds. But we still want to help each other out and learn. It would not be as competitive if we all knew where we were going, but that competitive nature drives us to study a little bit harder and at the same time help each other out. So it’s a nice balance.”

While the school’s total-force setup — with different curriculums — is a well-functioning machine, there are times when it can be a juggling act.

“Some of the challenges are the unique environment that we work in,” Scapperotti said. “We work in a real total-force environment right alongside active duty and the Guard. In many ways, we work really well together. But being that we work at an active-duty squadron, there are times when we are pulled into the mix of things that are just related to active duty. But Sergeant Govea and I have to set the right example and right tone, even if something does not apply to us.”

While it is a challenge to juggle some of the Reserve classroom duties with active-duty squadron activities, Scapperotti is a valuable asset to both.

“A lot of the NCOs gravitate toward Senior Master Sergeant Scapperotti and seek him out as a mentor,” said Chief Master Sgt. Frank Staud, superintendent of the recruiting school. “He just does a phenomenal job, and it’s helped him grow as well. He has a vast knowledge of the active-duty side, which is unusual for someone who hasn’t been on active duty, so that’s pretty cool. He has such a vast knowledge of all three components that he is very valuable in taking an unofficial role as a leader.”

The honor of mentoring others is not lost on Scapperotti.

“I’ve been really honored while I’ve been here,” he said. “Several active-duty personnel have asked me to tack on their stripes for their promotions, and my two Air National Guard colleagues have asked me to do the same thing. So when that happens in a total-force flight, you know whatever you are doing is right.”

Staud really likes what the Reserve instructors bring to the squadron and knows they are always ready to pitch in a hand if needed.

“Phenomenal is the word I would use to describe them,” he said. “They are very professional and go after everything and anything they can. They seek out challenges. I guess that’s the best thing they do. There is no downtime with them. They are always going to find something to occupy their time and better themselves or the team as a whole.”

One of the things that makes it possible for the two Reserve instructors as well as their Guard counterparts to mentor others is experience in the field.

“I came here with 10 years of experience, so we are a bit senior to them in our experience level (most active-duty instructors have about five year of experience),” Scapperotti said. “So at first they see us as instructors or peers. But then they realize that, no, we are mentors, and they can learn a lot from us.

“I do involve myself with all three components, probably because the mission of the recruiting school has just become so important to me. I can easily say I have become emotionally connected with the mission at recruiting school. That has translated to me being involved with all three components in some way or another.”

While the Recruiting Service is always looking for more recruiters, and the need and demand for good recruiters will only increase as end-strength numbers are going up for the next fiscal year, Govea wants potential recruiting school attendees to know hard work equals rewards.

“To be successful, this is one of the industries where you get what you put in, which is really rewarding, but you really have to work for it, and it can be difficult if you don’t want it,” he said. “The school will keep you on your toes. It will keep you young, or it can put some gray hairs on you if you let it.

“We try to teach balance. Physical fitness is important, and family is huge. If your home isn’t good, what makes you think you can come to work with a smile. You have to take care of things at home and continue professional development. It’s all about growing overall and reaching your highest potential by believing in your organization and yourself.”