My experience as a SMSgt participating in Recruiters Assistance Program

  • Published
  • By Senior Master Sgt. Jessica Tabor
  • 92nd Air Refueling Wing Equal Opportunity

I never envisioned myself as a senior master sergeant sharing the story of my 19-year Air Force career with hundreds of high school students. On a whim, I sent a request through my chain of command to participate in the Recruiters Assistance Program (RAP). In accordance with Department of the Air Force Instruction 36-3003, Military Leave Program, Table 3.6., Rule 15, unit commanders may approve up to 14 days of permissive TDY to participate in pre-approved Air Force Recruiting Services. The process was simple! After my commander approved my request, I searched the Air Force Recruiting website and called a recruiter, Staff Sgt. Nicholas Castellucci, who worked near my family’s location. Staff Sgt. Castellucci and I agreed upon a date for me to spend the two weeks working alongside him.

Initially, I felt uneasy; I’m a senior master sergeant AND I serve as Fairchild Air Force Base’s Equal Opportunity director. I wondered what I could contribute to a recruiting station at this point in my career.  Nonetheless, I decided I was ready to help my assigned recruiter in any way I could. I’d engage with potential applicants, organize the swag and even fold pamphlets if they needed it. I decided that my rank and position might have made me an atypical RAP participant, but it would not prevent me from being an asset. Unlike anything I had done before, I’d take my recruiter’s direction and immerse myself in the job. I had no idea how much I would take away from this experience.

SSgt Castellucci greeted me in the office on day one, and we went over the obligatory paperwork, conduct and expectations. Over the next few days, I could still manage my office back at Fairchild as I awaited further direction. With my extra time, I began organizing the storage room. Over the two weeks, I unloaded boxes and stacked swag, and while I didn’t fold pamphlets, I did learn to build cardboard pamphlet holders. 

The most exciting moments for me were the job fairs at the local high school and community college, where we engaged with young adults. As they approached the table, SSgt Castellucci would say, “Ready to start your future?” or sometimes, “I can get you out of Illinois.” At his age, he could relate to the students so well. I am twenty years out of high school, wearing ankle socks and a side part in my hair.  These students learned about the almost 150 jobs available, the benefits the USAF provides and how it can change their lives. Listening to him share those pieces made me pause. For the last several years, I had only thought about my negative experiences, the leadership that jaded me and the assignments where I struggled with my mental health. Listening to SSgt Castellucci made me reflect. I do have two wonderful children, one that my insurance paid for the NICU stay; I completed my master’s degree, compliments of USAF tuition assistance; I have seen many parts of the world and met some amazing friends who have become my family. I did have a lot to appreciative!

After speaking with my friends about my RAP experience, our low recruiting numbers and the stress our recruiters are under to meet their quotas, I saw value in sharing my experience.  Senior noncommissioned officers should support the RAP program and share their Air Force stories. As SNCOs, we have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share with potential applicants. Also, we owe our mentorship and support to recruiters who are working long hours, constantly talking to concerned parents and setting up booths at every fair in their area without the proper rest and respite required during their four-year tour. 

The highlight of my time on RAP was engaging with SSgt Castellucci. I enjoyed learning about his career path, his future goals and his personal work-life balance. It was a pleasure to learn about the inner workings of his Air Force Specialty Code, an often-unappreciated job that is the lifeblood of our military service. I told him he’s stuck with me, but I’m thankful to have met him. He gives me hope as he represents the future of the Air Force and what it will look like to those who will serve after me.