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How AFRS’s 43rd Annual Operation Blue Suit Celebration Was Extraordinary

  • Published
  • By Randy Martin, Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs
  • Air Force Recruiting Service

Air Force Recruiting Service continued its 43-year tradition of honoring excellence during the Operation Blue Suit celebration March 7-10, 2022, in San Antonio.

For 18 of its best recruiters, most accompanied by their spouses, the three days of training, team building and services was aimed at showcasing AFRS’s best Airmen.

“This sends a powerful message to the rest of the recruiting force,” said Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, AFRS commander, during his welcoming remarks at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “We value skill and execution and dedication. We don’t just value the service member, we value that family and the special loved ones that come along and support us.”

OBS formally began with an arrival ceremony inside JBSA-Randolph’s iconic headquarters building nicknamed the “Taj Mahal.” The 323rd Army Band “Fort Sam’s Own” played music as winners walked on red carpet under the Randolph High School Air Force Jr. ROTC honor guard’s arched swords emerging with an introduction to in-person and virtual attendees.

For some winners the moment was the realization of a goal imagined early in their respective careers.

“I remember walking down the ‘Blue Suit’ hall during recruiting school (at JBSA-Lackland),” said Tech. Sgt. Rebecca Absher, a recruiting and retention noncommissioned officer in the 140th Wing, Colorado Air National Guard at Aurora. “I thought to myself they are pretty awesome not really understanding what it took to become a Blue Suit recruiter.”

Absher was anxious to join in OBS activities that included an opportunity to hear from the Air Education and Training Command’s senior leaders, special staff representatives and Blue Suit alumni during informal and formal settings befitting a significant career milestone for AFRS members.

“I hope to gain more friendships and build camaraderie with other rock stars!” Absher said. “Understanding we cannot do this alone, we all work together and share ideas.”

Among those “rock stars” was an officer recruiter based in Chicago whose Blue Suit win and 500-word essay earned a Columbia Southern University, scholarship covering tuition for up to 60 hours or 36 consecutive months in one degree program.

To receive the award, Master Sgt. Alexander James, 350th Recruiting Squadron and Air Force Reserve member, was joined by his wife, Amanda James, and representatives of the college on a stage inside the Gruene Events Center at New Braunfels, Texas, March 10, 2022, during OBS’s capstone event, a formal banquet dinner.

“Operation Blue Suit was an amazing opportunity for my wife and me,” James said. “Major General Thomas and his staff did an amazing job of making us feel much appreciated. The development and mentoring during the week was unmatched!”

James and other OBS award recipients were selected by their units’ leaders based on accomplishment of assigned goals. Those units span the world and OBS is highly competitive.

“We’re all very proud of Master Sergeant James,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jackie Sanchez, James’ supervisor and the officer accessions flight chief for the 350th RCS at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey. “He’s already made his goal for this year but he’s not comfortable with that. He always strives for more.”

Sanchez speculated that James could contend for another Blue Suit trophy in fiscal 2022. If that happens it will not be the first time.

Tech. Sgt. Dustin Kincaid, an enlisted accessions recruiter from the 336th Recruiting Squadron in Columbus, Georgia, became the first back-to-back winner of OBS since its inauguration in 1979. He was awarded for his service in fiscal 2020 and fiscal 2021.

For Kincaid, originally from Asbury, West Virginia, the formula for success includes trust and respect.

“Really it comes down to being willing to believe in the kids when no one else is and being willing to treat everyone that you recruit like you would want to be treated,” Kincaid said. “Hard work really does go a long way and taking on those difficult tasks of making sure everyone who walked through that door or called the phone knew I was willing and ready to help them in any way possible.”

It was an accomplishment made even more remarkable considering the overlapping global pandemic that has hampered recruiters’ access to potential applicants. Those limits drove Kincaid to become innovative and agile.

“One of the many challenges that were overcome was building trust in the community and giving them the understanding that in uncertain times, as with COVID-19 and operations in Afghanistan at the time, we are the good guys and being able to pivot and adjust during a COVID-19 environment led to great success,” Kincaid said. “No one would succeed in the COVID-19 world if they were not up for change. Understanding that flexibly and learning new virtual processes and key ways to keep moving forward allowed us to succeed in our recruiting mission.”

For Kincaid there was one final highlight for OBS and its formal banquet. Retired Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Robert Gaylor, the banquet’s keynote speaker and the fifth person to hold the CMSAF rank, presented Kincaid the Major General A.J. Stewart Top Recruiter award for fiscal 2021.

The award is named in honor of Maj. Gen. A.J. Stewart, AFRS’s commander from 2008-2010. Stewart was a renowned advocate for all Airmen. He died in 2014 after battling cancer.

“I am so incredibly proud of my husband and his accomplishments in receiving Blue Suit two years in a row,” said Malinda Kincaid, Tech. Sgt. Kincaid’s spouse. She joined him for the presentation. “He gave his heart and soul to meet the task at hand and it truly paid off to change kids’ lives and join alongside us in the Air Force!”

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