JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH —
The Air Force continued its 75th anniversary celebration throughout the year with a four-star presence in a scenic Midwestern community that boasts a rich racing history. The service’s highest-ranking officer joined recruiters and future Airmen when the Air Force Recruiting Service showcased its Petty GMS sponsorship at the Kwik Trip 250 NASCAR Cup Series race at Road America near Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
“We have a great relationship with NASCAR,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. CQ Brown, Jr. said.
AFRS has positioned a national advertising asset called “The Hangar” from July 1-3, 2022, inside the 4.08-mile race course on a small stretch of over 600 acres featuring lush hills, maples and campsites. During the first two days, fans approached the exhibit which featured a replica F-16 Fighting Falcon and three stations inside a mock hangar where guests could try out being a pole vaulter during an air-to-air refueling mission or change an airplane tire and use tools like an Air Force Mechanic.
This is part of the national marketing strategy that was designed in Texas by the AFRS.
“The Air Force engages in experiential marketing and sponsorships to build public awareness and help the Air Force Recruiting Department fulfill its mission to inspire, engage and recruit the brightest and brightest candidates. most competitive, with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math careers,” said Lt. Col. Jason Wyche, recent AFRS National Events Chief, at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph during a visit to Road America on race day.
Wyche said motorsports venues are logical places for recruiters to meet people who could serve the nation and work in technical careers. Top Air Force leaders agree.
“In NASCAR you see technology, teamwork and competition come together and it’s the same thing that happens in the Air Force,” Brown said. He got a first-hand look at the course during a race car ride with Air Force driver Erik Jones shortly before the Kwik Trip 250.
The 2022 event at Road America was just the second NASCAR Cup Series race in its 65-year run as a motorsports mecca for fans in Wisconsin and beyond. Among them was a future Airman with an open mechanic enlistment contract from a village of about 1,500 people an hour north of Road America on Lake Michigan.
“I’m joining the Air Force because I want to get out into the world and meet new people,” said Caitlyn Ruttner, 17, of Mishicot, Wisconsin.
Although originally from Wisconsin, this was her first time at Road America. She recalled her childhood and her father sharing his love of NASCAR and giving her toy cars to play with.
“Mom and dad are proud of me for joining the Air Force and a little anxious, but that’s okay,” she said.
The opportunity to meet the Air Force leader was a real and unexpected pleasure for Ruttner.
“It’s an honor and I’m shocked to meet someone like the Chief of Staff,” Ruttner said. She was one of 23 future Airmen who recited the enlistment oath during a pre-race ceremony at Road America’s Victory Lane. Their ceremony was seen by a national television audience and thousands in attendance for the race.
Brown gave his perspective after spending time with some of the enlistees and their family members who witnessed a loved one’s meaningful life experience in person.
“This year we celebrate the 75th anniversary of our United States Air Force and when you think about our mission to fly, fight and win, anytime and anywhere, we can only do that because of the great recruiters and Airmen that we have here today,” Brown said.
One of those recruiters was optimistic about meeting his fiscal year 2022 goal for active-duty Air Force memberships.
“I guarantee you that we will make our station, our flight and our squadron objective,” the master sergeant said. Artice Melvin, an enlisted recruiter for the 347th Recruiting Squadron, who works at a recruiting office in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The area he is responsible for is 49,000 square miles.
“It’s not the easiest area to recruit because we don’t have an active duty Air Force base,” said Space Force officer Lt. Col. Patrisha Knight and commander of the 347th RCS. “Sometimes our recruiters are the only airmen that civilians in this community have ever seen. These national assets form an important part of our recruiting effort. When the AFRS and those national assets come into our backyard, it’s invaluable.
AFRS leaders have acknowledged that 2022 has been a challenging recruiting year with a myriad of factors leading to “headwinds” that could impede achievement of the Air Force’s overall goal and that of from the rest of the Ministry of Defence. Their motto has been “presence, presence, presence” because DOD reports show there is a declining propensity to join which could be related to the fact that few Americans see the military up close, experience a military or have seen a military base. .
“The Air Force needs approximately 40,000 recruits to fill careers in active duty, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard components, as engine mechanics, avionics specialists , electronic systems maintainers, crew chiefs, etc. – careers for mechanically inclined youngsters who love to tinker with engines,” Wyche said.
Wyche accompanied Brown to the start line at Road America. A straight line lined with towers, smelling of exhaust gases calmed down one last time for a ceremony in honor of the American flag with the singing of the American national anthem.
An Air Force C-17 Globemaster III turned and approached Road America above the line of race cars awaiting their instructions to start the engines.
Flying 1,000 feet above, the C-17’s four Pratt & Whitney F117-PW-100 turbofan engines capable of 40,440 pounds of thrust were audible to spectators awaiting the start of the road race. The flyby was yet another reminder that the Air Force “owns the sky,” as they say in a recent ad that aired in theaters in June.
“There’s no doubting the similarities between the kind of teamwork that happens in NASCAR and what happens inside an Air Force aircraft,” said Captain Joseph Carl, 27, of Stockton, Calif., at the controls of the C-17 which is based at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. “Our jets are louder though,” boasted Carl.
Carl said that as a child he watched car races with his father. After graduating from high school, he attended the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “We take our team to the pits everywhere we go and we wouldn’t be successful without this team of technical experts including maintainers, crew chiefs and riggers,” said Carl.
Carl and nine Airmen involved in the race day flyover mission visited Road America before the race.
Several had been involved in the evacuation of thousands of people from Afghanistan in 2021. “It was gratifying to help, not only the Americans, but also the Afghans,” said Senior Airman Matthew Alexander, 24, flight control specialist, from Bellington. , Massachusetts.
“I’m proud to have been part of this mission,” said Alexander.
At Road America NASCAR fans saluted and thanked many of the Airmen for serving.
“It’s surreal to think I’m on a flyover for a nationally televised sporting event on Independence Day weekend,” said Senior Airman Robert Jorden, 22, a loadmaster and Houston native. “We are grateful for the support of the American people.”
On pit road, the Petty GMS team prepared a specially painted car with Air Force 75th Anniversary decals on each rear panel. The engine of the Air Force-sponsored No. 43 Chevrolet Camaro roared as its team of mechanics and crew chiefs prepared to compete.
“It was great to have General Brown with us today at Road America,” said Jones, the driver of No. 43. “We have a unique opportunity with our partnership with the Air Force with how we can activate and bring awareness to everything they do and having General Brown come to a race, take him for a ride and hang out with him was pretty special and something I will always remember. What the Air Force stands for is so important and I’m grateful to have the opportunity to represent them and help celebrate their 75th anniversary this year with a special sticker on our #43 Chevy.