With strategic planning and the go-ahead command, the U.S. Air Force has found itself in the same location as the Army, the Navy and the Marines -- the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.
No, this isn't a military maneuver to protect the Kenai Peninsula from invasion, but the installment of a new Air Force recruiting office in the Peninsula Center Mall alongside the existing Marine Corps office and no farther than the length of a B-52 from the already established Army and Navy offices.
"People on the peninsula had to go to Anchorage (to get to the recruiting office)," Master Sgt. Jose A. Garcia said. "Just the mere fact that we are on the peninsula is a pro. Now people don't have to go to Anchorage just to get information."
Times are changing for the role of military recruiters. Ad campaigns for the Air Force changed from the "Aim High" slogan to "No one comes close." With the past few years' surge in economy, the recruitment levels have slightly dropped, but according to Garcia, not to damaging levels.
"About a decade ago there was a waiting line to get into the Air Force," Garcia said. "Now recruiting is more of a job, we have to go out and promote the Air Force. There have always been recruits, and there always will be."
Will the looming decline in the economy bring a rise in military recruiting?
"It is unfortunate, but I think it will," Garcia said. "No one in the armed forces wants to see the economy drop, we would rather see a good economy and have to meet the challenge."
The stereotyping of the armed forces leads some to believe that joining the Air Force means a recruit will have to fly planes, that a Marine is only used to lead the charge on the ground, that the Army doesn't have a use for ships, and the Navy doesn't know how to fly.
"That is the funny thing," Garcia said. "In almost 19 years I have only been in an Air Force plane once. There are jobs from military police to medical technologist. I heard somewhere that the Navy has more planes than us, and the Army has more boats than them."
Is there glory in the life of a military recruit? There might be. Is there the chance to learn new things? Of course. But what tactics are used to show a possible recruit that the military is the life for them?
"We try to sell the way of life," Garcia said. "We tell them to go do their job and do it well, and we promote education. If you treat people right once they are in the door they are likely to stay."
An Army recruiter said he did not expect the new office to detract from the recruiting efforts of other branches of the military.
"I think (recruiting) always will (be strong)," Army Sgt. William Persuhn said. "We don't have a problem recruiting here."
According to Garcia, the military has a place for everybody.
"There is a place for people that want history degrees, art degrees. Of course, the Air Force is always looking for the well-rounded individuals," Garcia said. "We have a place for men and women -- 35 percent of new enlistees are women. That is a statistic that surprises a lot of people."
The steps for an interested person looking to become a recruit are fairly simple. The Air Force, along with the other armed services, looks for a high school diploma and examines the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, to see if the possible enlistee qualifies for what the military needs in a recruit.
There is also room for those looking to take a higher path in the military world. Garcia said that the Air Force office in Soldotna is the first step for getting information on attending the Air Force Academy or becoming a member of the ROTC program at a large number of universities and colleges nationwide.
The Air Force and the other branches of the service do not always expect interested individuals to have to hunt them down for information.
"Basically we visit a lot of schools," Garcia said. "We let the community know we are here. A lot of our advertising is word of mouth. We will be taking a big part (in job fairs) and letting people know we are here."
For more information, call the Air Force (262-8407), the Navy (260-7730), the Marine Corps (262-2243), the Army (260-3954) or visit the offices at the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.
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