Military recruiting goes virtual in an innovative new campaign
By Master Sgt. John Hughel, Washington Air National Guard
/ Published May 05, 2020
CAMP MURRAY, Wash. --
For most people who join the military, their recruiter is often the first service member they’ll meet face to face. Often it’s in person but online recruiting has become popular with those who would rather ask questions on the Internet.
Recruiting can be a challenge in the best of times, and with the stay-at-home orders in place during the COVID-19 outbreak, Senior Master Sgt. Christopher Perez, Superintendent for recruiting and retention for the Washington Air National Guard took the opportunity to create a fresh approach to reaching potential new members to join the Washington Air National Guard.
With over 21 years working as recruiter, Perez brainstormed the “Don’t Rush Challenge,” video to attract this web savvy generation interested in discovering how to serve as Citizen Airmen. He has been a member of the Washington ANG since 2017 and before that was previously the Recruiting & Retention Superintendent in Hawaii.
“I was inspired by a group of Air Force Officers who did the “Don’t Rush Challenge as an homage to the 99th Pursuit Squadron (nicknamed the Tuskegee Airmen) and wanted to showcase the Air National Guard in the same manner, which resulted in ‘Passing The Patch,’ as the central theme, where the first person catches it and phased in with them in uniform…all done using one’s video mode on their cell phone,” he said.
The concept is as simple as it is creative. With the new Operational Camouflage Pattern uniform, the Air National Guard patch is pulled off of the arm by the member and then tossed to another out of the camera frame. That person ‘catches it’ and holds it up to the camera while they are in civilian attire. When the patch zooms out, the person is now in uniform and is wearing the patch. Then the relay starts again. The goal is to highlight the individual in their civilian status and that patch that transforms them into the Citizen Airmen that highlights their military position.
“When I got this idea, I reached out to two other recruiters, Tech. Sergeants (Jeffery) Sprick with the Minnesota Air National Guard, (Cameron) Macias in California and David Anderson of the Idaho Air National Guard,” said Perez, describing the team of other recruiters in his network. “These recruiters are really proficient with marketing, branding and social media aspects that I knew could help me develop this idea.”
In a broader sense, Perez wanted to highlight two important facets with members he featured in the piece. First and foremost was the diversity of the force and equally important were the range of Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSC) within the force. The real selling point is how authentic the approach is, where Airmen use their own phones, shoot the images in their own environments and do so in real time.
“I started with six volunteers, focusing on essential AFSC’s such as Combat Communications, Cyber, Special Operations, and Medical career fields,” he said.
Eventually he worked with 10 Airmen from four states to highlight these important military occupations, and the range of varied faces, to emphasize the distinctive appeal of serving in the Air National Guard.
“It was important to also think about all the other production details,” said Perez, noting how he worked with his project team to select the right background music and media tools to assemble the final product.
“We had the members film themselves using their own mobile phones to really enhance the whole shared social media experience,” he said. “When it was done, Sergeant Sprick took about two weeks to ‘stick the whole thing together’ (in post production) using iMovie.”
“It really was a great collaborative process and I had some others that assisted in the process, but it helps build on a bigger, more pressing need for recruiting overall,” Perez said, detailing how Air National Guard recruiters educate the public about the Air National Guard’s mission. “There is general lack of awareness in the Air National Guard in general and what we can offer potential recruits.”
In detailing these issues, he said that there is competition from employers, other branches of service, and the testing scores for some of the more demanding jobs.
“Many of the high needs jobs in the Air National Guard require high scores on the ASVAB test,” said Perez. “So this is why we are always looking for ways to create a larger awareness of what the Air Force and Guard has to offer.”
After the original launch of the video, Washington alone had over 5,000 Facebook ‘Likes’ and over 8,000 from other states.
“It has done so well for us and Chief Master Sgt. (Ron) Anderson, [Command Chief Master Sgt. of the Air National Guard] shared it on his Facebook page and it really took off!”
In describing what’s next for recruiting, Perez said that he has some ideas for a series of these videos to build on the success of this promotion.
“It’s kind a cool that we were the first to collaborate with 3 other states to put this together and catch so much interest, so some of the ideas going forward will still involve keeping the same theme but keeping it fresh too.”