JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas --
In annual traditional fashion, Air Force Recruiting Service rolled out the red carpet for the top recruiters of the year at their headquarters June 15, 2021 to kick off Operation Blue Suit.
The top 18 Air Force recruiters, from all three Air Force components, are considered the best of more than 2,100 recruiters located in more than 1,200 recruiting offices throughout the 50 states and outlying areas, Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, Europe and the Pacific Rim who inspire, engage and recruit the next generation of Airmen and Guardians.
“Recruiting the best quality Americans from the across the nation is step one in national security,” said Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, AFRS commander. “And it takes talented, dedicated and professional Airmen and Guardian recruiters to ensure we remain the best Air and Space Forces in the world. These Guard, Reserve and Regular Air Force recruiters are the best of the best and set the bar for all others. We’re grateful to have them on our team.”
Throughout the week, the top Total Force recruiters are recognized in San Antonio for excelling in how they accomplished the mission during an unprecedented Fiscal 2020 where virtual recruiting ramped up due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic.
Blue Suit Winners are:
Tech. Sgt Nathaniel Hildreth, 330th Recruiting Squadron, San Antonio, Texas
Tech. Sgt. Bryan Sizemore, 311th RCS, Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Tech. Sgt. Keenan Harry, 313th RCS, North Syracuse, New York
Master Sgt. Brandon Reid, 313th RCS, North Syracuse, New York
Tech. Sgt. Ralph Hall-Gonzalez Jr., 318th RCS, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
Master Sgt. Darrell Gaudio, 331st RCS, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
Tech. Sgt. Dustin Kincaid 336th RCS, Moody AFB, Georgia
Master Sgt. Cherelle Terry, 342nd RCS, San Antonio, Texas
Master Sgt. Aaron Shields, 342nd RCS, San Antonio, Texas
Master Sgt. Jacob Bender, 348th RCS, Clearfield, Utah
Tech. Sgt. Jacob Haynes, 361st RCS, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Master Sgt. Christopher Consalvo, 361st RCS, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington
Master Sgt. Jose Neri, 351st RCS, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia
Master Sgt. Albert Trombley 351st RCS, Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia
Master Sgt. George Wyatt 352nd RCS, Fort Worth, Texas
Tech. Sgt. James Hokkanen, 105th Airlift Wing, Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York
Tech. Sgt. Britni Riffle, 134th Air Refueling Wing, McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Knoxville, Tennessee
Tech. Sgt Clark Vincent Jr., 134th Air Refueling Wing, McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base, Knoxville, Tennessee
Of all the winners, Hildreth stood out as 2021 Air Education and Training Command Outstanding Airman of the Year/Recruiter of Year.
“I believe that this award shows what a team accomplished, not what I accomplished,” said Hildreth. “It took a team for me to become a Blue Suiter. Our team recruited the right individuals for the right job. I’m proud of what we accomplished together.”
He credited his squadron leadership for trusting him with a large area of responsibility, his flight chief for mentoring him, his flight mates for making him a better NCO, and his T3i primary developer for helping him understand Special Warfare and Combat Support career fields.
“It was an honor to work with this high-performance team,” Hildreth said. “The balance between work and family life was significant. My wife was the glue that held our family together when I was getting after the mission.”
Operation Blue Suit had more winners this year with the expansion of Total Force recruiting.
“To be honest, I didn’t even know this award existed until I was notified I was one of the winners,” said Hokkanen. “After doing my own research and finding out how prestigious this award is, I was truly honored to have been in a category with the best recruiters worldwide.”
Even in an unprecedented year, some recruiters just felt they were simply doing their job.
“I am very humbled and honored to be selected for such a great achievement,” said Wyatt who is an Air Force reserve recruiter. “Being able to maintain the consistency that the job demands during the COVID-19 pandemic while finding the necessary work around to still assist individuals wanting to join and serve their country.”
“Most of FY20 was filled with unexpected challenges leaving recruiters with no leads, no school attendance and no community events… time to think outside the zone,” said Hokkanen. “I had to rely heavily on word-of-mouth past leads, past enlistments, and open the door to the ‘Air Guard meets Social Media.’ Mix all that up with online job postings to multiple virtual FaceTime enlistments and that is how the job got done.”
Spouses also lauded the work of the Total Force recruiting team.
“Being part of the recruiting family means long work weeks and lots of stress, but it also means that your fellow Airmen and their families will always be there to offer a strong support system and friendly faces,” said Vanessa Olivarez, spouse of Gaudio. “Being part of the recruiting family also means that I get to hear about all of the highly qualified individuals that are joining our Air Force and shaping our future. It is extremely rewarding.”
Operation Blue Suit started in 1979 to recognize the Air Force’s best recruiters for their efforts in recruiting a diverse, high-performing volunteer force to fill career fields critical to the Air Force accomplishing its missions.