345th Recruiting Squadron tasked with finding the best for growing Air Force

Staff Sgt. Sherard Bilbo, 345th Recruiting Squadron recruiter, speaks with a recruit May 14, 2018, at the Air Force Recruiting Office, Faiview Heights, Illinois. A recruiter's mission is to inspire, engage and recruit new Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melissa Estevez)

Staff Sgt. Sherard Bilbo, 345th Recruiting Squadron recruiter, speaks with a recruit May 14, 2018, at the Air Force Recruiting Office, Faiview Heights, Illinois. A recruiter's mission is to inspire, engage and recruit new Airmen. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melissa Estevez)

Tech. Sgt. Merissa Hunnicutt, 345th Recruiting Squadron recruiter, speaks with a recruit about the Military Entrance Processing Station, May 14, 2018, at the Air Force Recruiting Office, Faiview Heights, Illinois. The 345th RCS is on track to enlist approximately 1,100 new Airmen this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melissa Estevez)

Tech. Sgt. Merissa Hunnicutt, 345th Recruiting Squadron recruiter, speaks with a recruit about the Military Entrance Processing Station, May 14, 2018, at the Air Force Recruiting Office, Faiview Heights, Illinois. The 345th RCS is on track to enlist approximately 1,100 new Airmen this year. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Melissa Estevez)

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- It takes a certain kind of person to be an Airman. Not just anyone can wear the uniform and lead Airmen into battle.

The mission of Air Force recruiters is finding the ones who can.

The 345th Recruiting Squadron directs and operates the recruiting activities of seven enlisted accession flights with approximately 84 active-duty and sixcivilian personnel.

“Our mission is to inspire, engage and recruit future Airmen to deliver airpower for America,” said Lt. Col. Joel Brown, 345th RCS commander.

The 345th RCS is responsible for an 118,000-square-mile area that includes central and southern Illinois; eastern Missouri; western Tennessee; Paducah, Kentucky; eastern Arkansas; and northern Mississippi. The nearest recruiting station to Scott AFB is in Fairview Heights. 

The Air Force is growing, Brown said. Recruiters are not only tasked with replacing the individuals who separate and retire, but also meeting the congressionally mandated increase in force size.

“Over the next five years we are going to try and climb to 339,000 people on active duty,” Brown said.

There are currently 319,000 active duty Airmen.

According to Brown, the 345th RCS is on track to enlist and commission approximately 1,100 new Airmen this year. This requires a team effort between 50 recruiters in charge of various areas of responsibilities and three Military Entrance Processing Stations.

“As an Air Force recruiter, I look to ensure potential applicants are qualified to join and then find that underlining reason, that ‘Why Factor,’ that either made them call-in or walk into the office ...” said Staff. Sgt. Sherard Bilbo, Fairview Heights recruiter. 

In addition to finding that “Why Factor,” Bilbo also ensures that potential recruits understand there is more to the Air Force than just being a pilot, hopefully finding them the job they want.

“I tell them that only four percent (of Air Force jobs) are Air Force pilots and inform them about the other 96 percent of the non-pilot careers the Air Force offers as well as the benefits they can have while in the Air Force,” Bilbo said.

Brown explained that those interested in becoming Airmen in the United States Air Force have a choice of a four or six-year contract and over 100 Air Force Specialty Codes. 

“When people do a six-year contract they have the capacity to go back into their communities and land a solid job that sets them up for the rest of their lives,” said Brown.

“People give us the best years of their life, but I think we return to society great citizens with a moral compass that are well educated and well equipped to transition into a great career.”

The 345th also recruits Air Force Special Operations Battlefield Airmen for some of the most demanding AFSCs. These career fields are the toughest to fill and require meeting incredibly high standards.

“They require a mindset of progression, success, and they don't entertain failure as an option,” said Bilbo.

“It takes a motivated, physically fit person to meet the required qualifications.”