Commentary: Telling my Air Force story through Recruiter Assistance Program

  • Published
  • By Airman Shelby Pruitt
  • 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Since my enlistment, I’ve been infatuated with the Air Force and all it has to offer. So, naturally, I was super excited for the chance to tell people my story and help others get started on what could be their active-duty journey, as well.

Just recently, my best friend Airman 1st Class Destiny Patchin, a fuels apprentice with the 509th Logistic Readiness Squadron, and I drove to our hometown of Berlin Heights, Ohio, to assist our recruiter who was just a few towns over in Sandusky. We applied and were accepted for the Air Force Recruiter Assistance Program, or RAP.

RAP is designed for Airmen to work with Air Force recruiters in their hometowns for the purpose of spreading the word about the Air Force by sharing personal testimonies, setting up recruitment booths and speaking at schools and other organizations. As an assistant we can also give guidance to Delayed Entry Program members, attend Center of Influence events and carry out any recruiting-related tasks delegated by the recruiter. 

Once accepted for the program, the Air Force grants Airmen 12 days of nonchargeable leave to return home. RAP is extremely beneficial for the Air Force because Airmen can be a major influence in bringing firsthand knowledge and stories to their hometown. In turn, recruiters make contacts and develop leads.

Although this is considered leave, RAP requires the participating Airmen to report to the recruiting office every day for tasking. Our recruiter, Tech. Sgt. Andy Lansdowne, with the 339th Recruiting Squadron, had us participate in a lot of activities taking place in the area. Patchin and I were also fortunate to work in RAP at the same time with other Airmen in RAP, giving us the opportunity to relate to one another and share stories with others who went through the same Basic Military Training.

On the Fourth of July, we set up a booth at the Annual Stars and Stripes Celebration in downtown Sandusky. The following Saturday we walked in a parade, handing out candy and water bottles to people in Willard, Ohio, and we had the pleasure of talking at the DEP Commander’s Call to the newly enlisted headed to Air Force BMT.

Even with the more mundane tasks that were asked of us, such as cleaning the Air Force Recruiting government vehicle, I realized that it gave people in town, who are just doing regular activities, a chance to see us in uniform washing a cool vehicle. I can’t tell you how many people stopped and asked us about it.

Many residents in our hometown raised a lot of questions about the Air Force from old friends to the general public around town. This gave us the chance us to tell our personal stories about what led each of us to join, opening the door to those who may not know anything about military service, or who may be too scared to take the first step and ask.

One thing we realized about ourselves and people from home was the variety of perceptions of the military. People had their own ideas and different views on the military and Air Force, some similar to what Patchin and I had before we joined. RAP gave us the chance to explain what exactly the Air Force is like to people who had the same perception as us when we were civilians.

My friend and I agree that after being in the Air Force about five months, the people, places and experiences we’ve had completely changed our view of the world and the military itself. Being newly enlisted Airmen, it made it easier for young people considering military service for themselves to feel more comfortable asking us questions.

It was amazing for me to sit in my hometown recruiting office and see people from high school or mutual friends who have had already started their Air Force journey. That was probably the best part of my RAP experience.

Another great feeling was watching our recruiter’s reaction to our growth as Airmen. Sgt. Lansdowne knew we were high school students who stopped into his office asking about the Air Force. Then he knew us as technical school graduates who were certified in our career fields serving our first term of enlistment. During RAP, he saw us as Airmen reporting to him for duty. He helped get us started with the best decision we’ve ever made and we couldn’t thank him enough for it.

It made me feel proud when Lansdowne said the most rewarding part about being a recruiter is getting to see people who just graduated high school come to you with nothing to do, and then they go off, get molded in basic training and become an American Airman. He told me “You had no clue what you wanted to do, and look at you now… the Pruitt that interviews generals.”

Outside of our RAP duty hours, we still had an opportunity to make an impact in our home town. Patchin and I were also invited to a graduation party for a friend. When we were just about to leave the party, we heard someone recognize us as Airmen. We walked over to a group of kids and found out that one of the boys had just taken his oath, and another was studying hard to take his Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery so he could join as well. They asked their questions and we got to tell them all about our experiences and give advice on numerous things they were curious about.

Patchin and I were both so excited that more and more people from our hometown were making this decision.  The Air Force changed my life, and it all started in that recruiting office. Returning home for the opportunity to help others take the same step is something I think every Airman should experience at least once in their career.

(Editor’s note: For more information on RAP, go to and click the button for the program near the top right corner.)