TAMPA, Fla. – The Air Force was on full display at Super Bowl LV with a first-of-its-kind flyover consisting of a B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress. It also marked a return to in-person recruiting at one of the nation’s largest events.
A team of Total Force recruiters worked the event with representatives from each of the air components – the regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard as well as the U.S. Space Force.
For many of these recruiters it was the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic to work an event and engage in face-to-face recruiting with the public.
“It was nice having all components working side-by-side with each other interacting with the public,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Bedford, AFRS national events program manager. “One mother told me, ‘It’s nice to have recruiters discuss part-time and full-time opportunities, and I didn’t know you can serve in the Air force out of uniform.’ She also said it made it easier for her and her son to make an informed decision on Air Force opportunities with recruiters on site from all backgrounds.”
While this was the first time many recruiters got back to working a live event, it was Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Goldstrom’s first event since becoming the AFRS command chief.
“To see all of our recruiters working together, engaging the public, was really great,” Goldstrom said. “Seeing them interacting with everyone, especially the young children, and treating all of them with dignity and respect. While these young children aren’t our target demographic, it was still important to inspire and engage them. It was a perfect representation of our recruiting synergy. I’m an NFL nerd so it was so cool to see.”
Air Force recruiters were present at the lead up to the game for six days and their activation featured the Air Force AIR RAID QB Sim experience. This virtual reality and sensor technology is used to train quarterbacks at both the college and pro level. In the experience, visitors are playing against an Air Force defense and the background featured Raymond James Stadium, which hosted the Super Bowl.
“Our new Air Raid asset was so popular with the fans -- it was at least an hour wait,” Goldstrom said. “I even tried it out, and I feel it’s a great tool for our recruiters as it appeals to our target demographic who are tech savvy.”
For the recruiters, the Air Raid was a success as it allowed them time to engage with the crowd.
“The Air Raid is a great tool. It allowed us to speak with people, answer questions and just give some gee-whiz information while waiting for their turn,” said Master Sgt. Shane Hogan, the Air Force Reserve in-service recruiter at MacDill AFB. MacDill is located near where the Super Bowl was played. “It also was a great way to advertise the brand of the Air Force and let people know there are other ways to serve in the Air Force and not just full time. I thought the Air Raid was easy to work and felt like fans enjoyed it.”
The simulator was beneficial to all components engagement needs.
“The Air Raid worked great! I thought it was great to put folks in the perspective or point of view of the quarterback,” said Tech. Sgt. Carey Brown, a production recruiter with the Florida Air National Guard, Joint Forces Headquarters/125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville, Florida. “It actually brought all ages together as folks cheered for participants who were between the ages of 6 to 70. I think fans loved it.”
The Air Force recently entered into a three-year agreement with the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame to build a permanent exhibit for the Air Force AIR RAID QB Sim experience as well as the mobile unit used at this year’s Super Bowl.
While the Total Force recruiting enterprise has been an ongoing model for AFRS, this event was the first time for many recruiters since the pandemic to work together as a team.
“It was great working the Air Raid experience along with our Total Force team,” Brown said. “It was great to meet teammates from other parts of the Air Force and fans from all over the world. The motivation for folks to come out during a pandemic and make the best of the experience was exciting.”
This event also allowed the Total Force recruiters time to share ideas and experiences with one another.
“The experience from a Total Force recruiting perspective was great, the camaraderie and time to speak about certain aspects of recruiting that are done a little different was good to hear,” Brown said. “We all worked together very well, generally when you get a bunch of Air Force folks together things flow very well -- One Team, One Fight!”
Letting potential applicants know their options is key to successfully recruiting the best future Airman.
“This was my second time working an event as a Total Force team,” Hogan said. “I find it to be great opportunity not just for myself, but for anyone who is interested in possibly joining an air component. By having all three components at the same event allows for the most accurate and correct information to be given out right there on the spot.”
The Total Force synergy was beneficial to all components.
“We all worked together well, I already knew most of the people there as we are networking already,” said Master Sgt. Christopher Hale, a special warfare recruiter at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida. “Total force is making us see our other teammates and connect with them.”
In addition, recruiters were able to get back out and do something many have missed – meet with the public.
“This event was a lot of fun. It felt like an exclusive event since we needed special clearance to attend,” said Master Sgt. David Albanese 333rd Recruiting Squadron, Patrick Space Force Base, Florida. “Some of the events such as our virtual reality QB experience were out of this world. I was also impressed with the care given to make it COVID-safe including the way we sanitized the equipment. We took a lot of great photos with families and everyone had a good time.
“The fans asked a lot of questions and I think they were impressed by both the Air and Space Force presence. I think our futuristic VR experience tied in well with the technology they would expect out of both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force.”
From the AFRS headquarters team, this event was the first large event in several months.
“The activations was a success. An average of about 300 people a day got to experience the activation. The crowds were huge,” said Master Sgt. Zachary Atkinson, AFRS events marketing superintendent. “It hit the mark for brand awareness. The fans loved the experience and were all very military friendly. It was great to be around the public again and everyone was using social distancing practices and wearing masks. The event was conducted safely and successfully. It was a great event to get back out into the field.”