146th Air Support Operations Squadron achieves highest growth in end-strength in FY2014
By Senior Airman Justin M. Creech, 137th ARW Public Affairs
/ Published March 10, 2015
WILL ROGERS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Okla -- The 146th Air Support Operations Squadron finished with the highest growth in end-strength of any Oklahoma Air National Guard wing for Fiscal Year 2014. The squadron recruited 17 new enlisted Airmen which brought their total growth to 24.66 percent since Fiscal Year 2013.
"I'm pretty ecstatic," said Maj. Chris Gries, 146th ASOS, director of operations. "I give my entire enlisted corps, and Battlefield Airmen Recruiter absolute credit for that because they've put the word out on what our squadron is and where we are going. I think they are the main reason we achieved that kind of increase."
The 146th had 47 of a possible 66 positions filled at the beginning of the fiscal year. By the end of the year, they had filled all but two.
All but one of the new recruits enlisted to become Tactical Air Control Party (TACP) Specialists. Upon speaking with perspective recruits, Tech. Sgt. Christopher Vaughan, 146th ASOS, recruiter asks them what they already know about the TACP career field in order to figure out whether or not the recruit is serious about enlisting.
"I want to know what research they've already done," said Vaughan. "If they can quote me the physical standards and the schools they have to go through, I know they are a little ahead of the game. I don't have to go real in-depth to find out if this is what they really want to do."
The increase is exciting for Senior Master Sgt. Michael Shropshire, 146th ASOS, superintendent. Shropshire's Air Force career spans two decades, so how the personnel gain helps the Air Force carry out its mission is more satisfying than being recognized as the squadron with the highest growth, according to Shropshire.
"These new guys coming in are the next generation," said Shropshire. "We have a responsibility to groom our replacements. So, once they get into these positions, we want to give them the foundation of our experiences, but we also want to teach them our mistakes so they can do better than we did."
Vaughan introduces potential recruits to Shropshire and other full-time employees at the ASOS to provide several voices for them to learn about the TACP career field. Shropshire relishes the opportunity to speak with potential recruits because he wants to know if their families will support them through the initial-entry training, but he also wants to make sure they fully understand the ASOS mission.
"The training is long, and there's a lot of dedication involved," said Shropshire. "I ask males if their wives are on board, because if they aren't this is not going to work for them."
"Sometimes guys come in and think this job is on the ground combat stuff," said Shropshire. "That's not the main part of our job. Our job is to be the air power advocate for the joint team. The end result is calling in the close air support. Other than that, the rest of the time our job is mission planning."
The growth in end-strength for the ASOS allowed the 137th Air Refueling Wing to win the inaugural Commanders Cup. The award is given to the in-state Air Guard Wing that experiences the highest growth in personnel during the fiscal year.
"We call it the Commander's Cup, but it's recognizing its strength which is also a credit to supervisors, commanders, first sergeants, personnel, recruiters," said Senior Master Sgt. Chad Pierce, 137th Air Refueling Wing Recruiting and Retention, superintendent, "it's a team effort."
Retention, as well as recruiting, factors into the growth in end-strength. The 137th's diligence in letting Pierce and his co-workers know spots that needed to be filled shows him the kind of dedication members of the 137th have to the Wing.
"As far as retention, it shows that our commanders, unit career advisors and anyone who plays a role in influencing troops that they did a good job at retaining the right people," said Pierce.
Along with the Commanders Cup, the 137th had a member achieve a personal award as Tech. Sgt. Leslie Quate, 137th ARW, production recruiter was selected as the top rookie recruiter for the region. Quate had a quota of 27 new recruits, and ended up with 51.
"It's good to be recognized, but I feel like I'm just doing my job," said Quate.
Ensuring she recruited quality people was Quate's goal more than the quantity. Though she is proud of her individual accomplishment, the team achievement of winning the Commanders Cup and sustaining the 137th's reputation is more valuable to her.
"We have a team concept here," said Quate. "That's what I tell my applicants. You are the face of the future, so you have to continue the hard work that your predecessors have put forth."