Air Force offers recruiting medals for airmen and guardians, promotions for new troops
Stars and Stripes May 18, 2023
WASHINGTON — The Air Force is now offering promotions and multiple decorations to airmen and Space Force guardians when they help sign up new recruits as a way to expand enlistment efforts and overcome struggles attracting enough troops, the service announced Thursday.
Each service branch has had difficulties recruiting enough troops in recent years. The Air Force’s active-duty target for 2023 is almost 27,000 new recruits — a number that leaders in the service have already said they won’t reach.
To help, the Air Force unveiled two new programs Thursday that add recruiting incentives — one for existing airmen and guardians and another for new Air Force and Space Force recruits.
Existing airmen and guardians can earn as many as three medals for referring recruits and new enlistees can earn quick promotions if they refer friends.
In the program called the Stellar Talent Acquisition Recruiting Referral, if an existing airman or guardian refers one candidate, they would receive an Air and Space Achievement Medal. They could earn another Air and Space Achievement Medal with three referrals and an Air and Space Commendation Medal with five referrals.
The Air and Space Achievement Medal has existed since 1980 and is awarded to airmen and guardians for “outstanding achievement or meritorious service” or acts of courage. It has a blue and silver ribbon and a silver medal with thunderbolts and wings.
The Air and Space Commendation Medal is award to those who distinguish themselves by “meritorious achievement and service,” according to the Air Force. It has a blue and gold ribbon and a bronze medal stamped with the seal of the Air Force.
In the program called Stripes for Referrals, new airman and guardian recruits can earn quicker promotions if they refer other candidates before they enter basic training.
The program allows referring recruits to be promoted to the rank of E-2 if they bring in two enlistees or the rank of E-3 if they bring in four candidates who join the Delayed Entry Program or Delayed Entry Training.
Both new incentive programs are intended “to inspire the next generation to serve in the Air Force and Space Force,” the services said.
Earlier this year, the Air Force estimated it would be about 10% short of its recruiting goal for 2023. During a congressional hearing last month, Air Force Gen. David Allvin, the service chief of staff, said the service expects to be about 10,000 short in its total force, which includes active-duty and Reserve airmen and members of the Air National Guard.
The new Air Force recruiting efforts follow a similar plan that the Army rolled out this year, which offers points toward promotions or a new recruiting ribbon. The Air Force has already implemented other efforts to boost recruiting, such as cash bonuses and an accelerated U.S. citizenship track for foreign-born enlistees — the first group of whom became naturalized American citizens during basic training and graduated a couple weeks ago.
If the Air Force doesn’t meet its active-duty recruiting goal of almost 27,000 this year, it will be the first time since 1999 that it has missed that mark, according to Alex Wagner, assistant secretary of the Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs.
Part of the problem with recruiting is the candidate pool has become smaller in recent the years. According to recent Pentagon data, only 23% of young Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 qualify academically and physically to serve in the armed forces — a statistic one Air Force general called “staggering.
“That is a very troubling statistic, not just for us but for America,” said Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas, commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service.