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Recruiters exceed goals, bring home the gold

Master Sgt. Johnny Martinez, Air Guard recruiter, gives a base tour to potential recruits. The base tour is one of many tactics recruiters use to generate interest in joining the 162nd Fighter Wing. Sergeant Martinez and all of the other recruiters for the 162nd are wearing the Recruiters Gold Badge for exceeding their recruiting goals by 125 percent. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Gabe Johnson)

Master Sgt. Johnny Martinez, Air Guard recruiter, gives a base tour to potential recruits. The base tour is one of many tactics recruiters use to generate interest in joining the 162nd Fighter Wing. Sergeant Martinez and all of the other recruiters for the 162nd are wearing the Recruiters Gold Badge for exceeding their recruiting goals by 125 percent. (Air National Guard photo by Capt. Gabe Johnson)

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Imagine trying to convince someone to join the military in wartime when potential recruits know their next summer vacation could very well be in Afghanistan. Recruiters at the 162nd Fighter Wing make it look easy. They recruited an astonishing 197 Airmen last year. 

Master Sergeants Teresa Denogean, Brian Jones, Jeff Schultz and Johnny Martinez exceeded their recruiting goals in 2008 and all four are currently wearing the prestigious Recruiters Gold Badge. 

"We achieved this because of the support we received from all areas on base," said Sergeant Denogean, recruiting office supervisor. 

The badge is awarded to recruiters who exceed their goal for the year with 125 percent or more. Only 180 recruiters nation-wide are wearing the badge today and they are the top 25 percent of the 700 in service. 

The 162nd Fighter Wing Recruiting Office was the only recruiting office to have each recruiter surpass their goal by such a wide margin. "It is because we work so well together, we have a great team," said Sergeant Jones. 

The team includes retired Senior Master Sgt. Ira Zarin. He works at the office full time. "Ira is amazing; he does a little bit of everything. Having him around also frees us up to do more," said Sergeant Denogean. In the past, the recruiters would have to close the office when they were at events. Now with Zarin in the office, they are able to reach more potential recruits. 

Who are the wing's newest Airmen? Prior service accounts for 76 percent. "With all the deployments going on, a lot of active duty personnel are working with Guard folks in theater, and they learn about the beauty of the Guard," said Sergeant Martinez. 

"These folks enjoy the military, but the stability of the Guard seems to be more conducive to raising families," said Sergeant Schultz. 

The other 24 percent are non-prior military. "We receive a lot of referrals from current unit members, and the Guard Recruiter Assistance Program has helped us be successful," said Sergeant Jones. The program pays $2,000 to unit members who bring an enlistment to the Guard. 

"It was a good year for the Air National Guard, and it was an outstanding year for us," said Sergeant Denogean. They filled many mission critical positions; 33 crew chiefs, 15 weather personnel, 14 intelligence positions, 13 aerospace ground equipment positions and 12 security forces vacancies to highlight a few. 

"We have an incredible staff. They should all feel very proud," said Sergeant Denogean.