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First active duty Air Force Recruiting office in 11 years opens in U.S. Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands Air Force Recruiting office opens

U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Shayne Vander Kuyl, 333rd Enlisted Accessions Recruiter, and Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, Commander, Air Force Recruiting Service, cut the ribbon on a new Air Force Recruiting Office, April 7, 2019, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Active Duty Air Force Recruiting Office will be the first one in the U.S. Virgin Islands in 11 years, and will give island inhabitants direct access to a local Air Force recruiter. (U.S. Air Force photo by Desiree Palacios/Released)

Virgin Islands Air Force Recruiting office opens

U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, Commander, Air Force Recruiting Service, presents a certificate of appreciation to Debra Webster, head of Sunny Isles Leasing, April 7, 2019, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Mrs. Webster was presented the certificate for her efforts in aiding the U.S. Air Force in opening an active duty recruiting office on the islands for the first time in 11 years. (U.S. Air Force photo by Desiree Palacios/Released)

Virgin Islands Air Force Recruiting office opens

Members of the Air Force Recruiting Service, U.S. Virgin Islands Air National Guard, and U.S. Virgin Islands citizens pose for a photo in front of the Armed Forces Career Center, April 7, 2019, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. The group was gathered to signify the opening of an Active Duty Air Force recruiting office, the first of its kind to open in the U.S. Virgin Islands since 2008. (U.S. Air Force photo by Desiree Palacios/Released)

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas --

For the first time in 11 years, individuals from the U.S. Virgin Islands will now have direct access to an active duty Air Force recruiter on the island of St. Croix.

On April 7, 2019, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, Brig. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt, and Tech. Sgt. Shayne Vander Kuyl, 333rd Recruiting Squadron enlisted accessions recruiter, cut the ribbon on a brand new recruiting office, located in the St. Croix Sunny Isles Shopping Center.

“We are very excited to open this office, and the location could not be better, right next to our Air National Guard [partners],” Leavitt said. “Together we will find ... those with physical strength, moral strength, mental strength, with grit and determination. We'll show them a path to be able to serve their country.”

Since the original office’s closure in 2008 when it was located on St. Thomas, individuals from the U.S. Virgin Islands would have to either fly or take a ferry to Puerto Rico in order to talk to an active duty recruiter.

“The process used to be very time consuming just from travel times alone,” said Vander Kuyl. “Having someone on one of the main islands will make the process easier for all parties involved.”

Vander Kuyl is one of the first active duty recruiters on the island and has been working since January to bolster relationships between the Air Force and the local communities.

“I’m excited to be here as the active duty Air Force recruiter and am extremely grateful for how welcoming the community has been to me and my family,” Vander Kuyl said.

While the U.S. Virgin Islands are not a formal state but rather a U.S. territory, inhabitants of the islands are still American citizens and are eligible to join the U.S. Armed Forces.

However, with a community spread across several islands and the prominence of languages such as Spanish, French and different dialects of Creole, recruiting on the islands can be different than recruiting in the continental U.S.

“There are definitely some cultural challenges that come with working on the islands,” Vander Kuyl says. “but I’m thankful to have the support of the command and look forward to showing the community the opportunities the Air Force can offer them.”

The U.S. Virgin Islands are no strangers to military service, with two Tuskegee Airmen coming from the islands, Henry E. Rohlsen and Herbert Heywood. St. Croix is also home to the Virgin Islands Army and Air National Guard.

“The U.S. Virgin Islands have a proud history of military service,” said Lt. Col. Stewart Rountree, 333rd RCS commander. “With the establishment of this new office, we look forward to building lasting relationships and providing more career opportunities to citizens of the islands.”

While service applicants will still have to process through the San Juan Military Entrance Processing station, having a recruiter in the region is the first step towards simplifying the enlistment process there.

Since 2017, approximately 24 citizens from the U.S. Virgin Islands have joined the Air Force.

For more information on benefits of service or how to join the Air Force, go to www.airforce.com