OSHKOSH, Wis. --
With clear blue skies over Wittman Regional Airport here, nearly 500 top collegiate aviators from across the country competed in more than a dozen flying and ground-based events at the National Intercollegiate Flying Association SAFECON
competition May 8-13.
SAFECON brings the top three collegiate aviation teams from 10 regions across the United States to compete head-to-head while also offering opportunities for participants to network and engage with commercial and military aviation supporters and sponsors.
“We have multiple different sponsors for various events and they’re all here recruiting pilots,” said Taylor Newman, NIFA executive director. “Pilots are in high demand and this event is a good way for students to introduce themselves to people who may be the pathway for where they want to go and build a career.”
While recruiters continue to seek out top talent for the many opportunities within the Air Force Reserve, pilots and individuals needed to maintain the multi-million-dollar aircraft in the fleet remain in especially high demand.
“The students I have been engaging with are all highly qualified,” said Master Sgt. David Foster, an officer accession recruiter assigned to the 352nd Recruiting Squadron
. “Sometimes it’s a struggle to find anyone with 60 hours of flight time; however, the lowest amount of time I am hearing from the students here is around 200 hours. To have all this experience in one place is almost unheard of.”
Although some of the students are nearing graduation and eyeing a commercial pilot slot or considering the military, others still have a few more years of school to go, which presents an opportunity to enter the Reserve component within the enlisted force.
“I enlisted my junior year of high school in hopes of using the educational benefits to pay for college,” said Staff Sgt. Kade D’Addario, a mobility instrument flight control systems journeyman with the 945th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at Travis Air Force Base
, California, and competitor with the San Jose State flight team
. “My recruiter told me that starting out as a maintainer is a job that I should do if I am going to try and become a pilot. The Reserve is the way to go if you want to maintain balance with your civilian job, serve your country and receive benefits.”
Brig. Gen. Howard Clark III
, mobilization assistant to the director of Operations, Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration, Headquarters Air Mobility Command
, Scott AFB, Illinois, said he was impressed by the young people he met at the competition.
“I spoke to a young man who is going to join his local police force, and I was able to introduce him to our security forces guarding our airplanes,” he said. “He had no idea there was a role for him. Additionally, there was a young lady I spoke to who is about to get her Aircraft Maintenance Technician license and could have a future with us as a maintainer. There are folks across the realm of our jobs and opportunities, especially those interested in the STEM career fields, who we can bring into the Guard and Reserve right now. They’re getting their education and looking at jobs as rising seniors, and our service goes hand-in-hand with that.”
As a newly minted enlisted line recruiter and resident of Minneapolis for the last 10 years, Tech. Sgt. Jarrad Lathrop, assigned to the 352nd RCS, found the competition to be educational and rewarding. He especially liked having the opportunity to work alongside an A-10 Warthog
pilot in the recruiting booth.
“I don’t have a background in aviation, so having an A-10 pilot standing next to me was really, really helpful to be able to tell students what the pathway to becoming an officer may look like,” he said. “It’s always kind of hard to see the light leave someone’s eyes when they realize they’re talking to someone who’s never flown a plane. But at the same time, I love being able to utilize the resources of people who do know more than me and present the students with a different pathway to attain their goal.”
To provide maximum impact on education and recruiting, several aircraft and specialists from all components of the Air Force came from across the country to lend support and assist in making this a successful event.
“It’s a group effort,” Clark said. “We have recruiters from Scott AFB, Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. We have general officers coming out of Scott AFB and Texas. We have security forces coming out of Arizona, an A-10 aircraft out of Kansas, and an F-35 Lightning II
aircraft based out of Utah with its aircrew and public affairs team. You’re going to find a recruiting team and flying officers working hand-in-hand to get the job done, like we do for every mission.”
To learn more about becoming a pilot
, or one of the many other careers
in the Air Force Reserve, download the AIM HIGH
app to speak directly with a recruiter.