‘Bring a Buddy’ builds a recruiting foundation for 162nd
By Capt. Gabe Johnson, 162nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 16, 2009
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Friends and family of 162nd Fighter Wing members participated in a 'no pressure' recruiting event here March 7; the second annual "Bring a Buddy to Drill."
The event, organized by the wing recruiting office, gave 35 visitors the chance to see a day in the life of Arizona Air Guardsmen. Each "buddy," invited by a friend or relative in the unit, got in-depth tours of the hush house, the aerospace ground equipment shop, the aircraft hangars, the engine shop, avionics, and operations. They also ate a lunch in the award-winning Desert Rose Dining Facility.
"This year the word was out there and we had a lot of participation," said Master Sgt. Johnny Martinez, Bring a Buddy to Drill project manager. "The Guard Recruiters Assistance Program (GRAP) participation was good. We also have a large student flight and they brought a lot of people to drill as well."
In 2008, its inaugural year, Bring a Buddy yielded four enlistments; each a non-prior service recruit. According to recruiters the true impact of the program takes years to assess because participants may come back much later or tell other friends who end up joining.
"Our best voices are people that are in the unit," said Sergeant Martinez. "They're the ones who go back to their schools or work sites, or they have kids who are looking for opportunities, and they bring in potential recruits. GRAP also provides them an incentive to bring people to the Guard. They get $2,000 per enlistment and $4,000 for officer accessions."
Across the Air National Guard, GRAP proves to be an effective program for recruiting, however, recruiters only enlist about 10 percent of the people who attempt to join due to the Guard's high standards.
"It's an indication of the high caliber people we have here in our wing, and of the new people brought into it," he said.
Eric Bette, a student flight trainee, enlisted in the Guard in August 2008. He's attended every drill since then and thinks so highly of his experience that he brought four people to the event.
"My brother and sister are looking for educational benefits," said Bette. "My friend Benny works for the railroad and I think he's concerned about the economy so he's looking into the military. And my other friend is here to just learn more about the wing."
Bette will work in aerospace propulsion after he completes basic training and technical school. "It's actually this hush house that made me want to go into that field," he said. "I was really impressed and I liked the people in that shop."
"I love the military, how supportive everyone is, and I think that's how I got so many people to come to Bring a Buddy to Drill. I'm always talking about how much I like it."