03/19/07 — SUN - 916th Recruitment Report

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SUN - 916th Recruitment Report

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 19, 2007 2:03 PM

As top military officials work to ready Pope Air Force Base for its re-activation this summer, members of the 916th Air Refueling Wing are preparing, too.

Their task, they say, is equally as daunting -- to replace the more than 100 airmen they expect to migrate to the base's new unit, the 440th Air Lift Wing.

As part of the Base Realignment and Closure process, the 440th will be making the move from Milwaukee to Fayetteville in the coming months.

"With it, they are going to have about 1,500 personnel assigned to the unit at Pope," Chief Master Sgt. Ellen Shaheed said. "But a large number of the people currently assigned to the 440th will not be able to make the transition."

So, as chief recruiter for the 916th, that means she has been charged with finding reservists to fill vacancies that will likely come when airmen find out they have an option closer to home -- maintainers and members of the security forces detail, in particular.

"We're trying to identify the people who want to leave and once those individuals are identified, we're going to fill those positions," Chief Master Sgt. Shaheed said.

But Seymour Johnson won't be the only installation facing a potential shortfall. Charleston Air Force Base expects to lose more than 200 people to Pope.

Until then, base officials are taking a "proactive approach" to ensure all three wings' missions aren't jeopardized, Chief Master Sgt. Shaheed added.

"We're trying to get the word out to let people know that the Air Force Reserve is setting up a new wing and that we're hiring individuals, filling these positions ahead of time so when the doors do open, we won't be struggling," Chief Master Sgt. Shaheed said.

And in the Air Force, to struggle could translate into losing one's ability to deploy and budget cuts, 916th Public Affairs chief Capt. Shannon Mann said.

"Being mission capable is everything," she said. "Especially when you're looking at dollars."

"If we can't get the manning where it needs to be, if we can't fill the unit, they are going to slice our budget," Chief Master Sgt. Shaheed added. "They are not going to supply the funding for 1,000 folks if we only have 700."

Neither Capt. Mann nor Chief Master Sgt. Shaheed are worried, though. Both said they feel recruiters will rise to the challenge with close to 1,000 new reservists by the end of the year.

They will get it done at baseball games, on high school and college campuses and in small communities. Hence the name, "Operation Saturation."

"It expands our area of recruiting," Chief Master Sgt. Shaheed said. "It makes us think outside the box. It's giving us an opportunity to really capitalize on areas that we would not look into when it's business as usual."

"We have to remain positive," she added. "The Air Force Reserve in itself, it's an awesome program. We think if we can give people an opportunity to learn more about it, they will want to become a member."