OTIS AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Mass. --
Responding to the Department of Defense's COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, Air National Guard recruiters have moved their search for the future force to entirely remote operations.
"We haven't scaled back our recruiting efforts, but have shifted recruiting to 100 percent virtual prospecting," said Master Sgt. Tabitha Gendreau, 102nd Intelligence Wing recruiting flight chief.
Spring is the time when recruiters would typically be in schools talking to graduating seniors, but the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to recruit via social media.
“Now we are even more glued to our computers and phones in order to connect with our recruits and continue to push to fill critical wing vacancies,” said Tech Sgt. Brianna Johndrow, production recruiter, “Our focus and mission right now more than ever is to let unit members, as well as the community, know that the Massachusetts Air National Guard recruiting is still very much open for business!”
According to Gendreau, there are currently 23 Military Entrance Processing Stations closed today throughout the country. Only a handful of them due to COVID-19; the majority are closed due to zero projected processors.
Springfield MEPS is still open for those who are healthy and want to process. However, there is a 14-day quarantine pre-requisite to be scheduled for processing.
Enlistment and appointment ceremonies can now be done virtually as well.
“With the ability to now have applicants sign forms digitally, along with the ability to use video streaming, the processing of applicants can continue,” said Senior Master Sgt. Thomas Whiddon, Massachusetts Air National Guard state production superintendent. “Add in the ability to perform virtual enlistments, all of this allows us to still build a solid rapport with our applicants.”
The 102nd Intelligence Wing and 104th Fighter Wing recruiters have been working together to ensure new enlistments continue at both wings.
“The virtual enlistments are a state effort,” said. Tech. Sgt. Glenda Schuester, 104th Fighter Wing Recruiting Flight Chief, who coordinated with Jondrow for an enlistment on Apr. 20. “We begin with playing an active role in taking care of our Airmen to include newcomers, and the rest comes easy; it’s how we operate. This mentality helped the virtual enlistment go smoothly.”
Back on March 20, Maj. Sheila Pinette, a physician, was appointed into the 102nd Medical Group via video-streaming platforms.
Pinette said in an email, "I was filled with tremendous elation when I was able to swear in virtually during a national public health crisis. I am forever grateful to have this meaningful honor and experience shared virtually with my family, friends, and colleagues."
Without this technology, Pinette could still be waiting, leaving a qualified physician unable to serve for the Air National Guard.
Currently, hundreds of Massachusetts National Guard members are activated in response to the COVID-19 crisis. They are delivering supplies, assisting with testing patients in at-risk communities, and performing security details to augment local authorities.
"Our diverse and highly-trained guard members work and live in every community across the commonwealth,” said Maj. Gen. Gary Keefe, the Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard. “We will continue to be successful in continuing supporting civilian authorities during homeland emergencies as we have been for the last 383 years."