How to Prepare for Today's Competitive Air Force

Air Force career options
Col. Sharon Hunter, 97th Medical Group commander, speaks with Tech. Sgt. Michelle Wilkerson, 97th Medical Support Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of Tricare operation and patient administration, at the 97th MDG front clinic, March 14, 2013. (Airman 1st Class Klynne Pearl Serrano/U.S. Air Force)

Along the road to enlisting in the Air Force, there are many steps at which you can be deemed unfit for service. The first of these is during your first meeting with a recruiter. The job of the recruiter is to recruit people who are most likely to complete all training requirements. Your first step is to prove to the recruiter that you are serious about joining the Air Force.

  1. Call and make an appointment with the recruiter. Don't just stop in the office.
  2. Bring all the necessary paperwork to get the process started. (Transcripts, birth certificate, etc.)
  3. Make a list of jobs in which you are interested before meeting. This will require you to research Air Force jobs.
  4. During your initial meeting, ask for a specific date for the next meeting. The recruiter may not set a specific date but at least ask for one to show your commitment.
  5. If you don't hear back from the recruiter within five business days, make contact by phone. Be sure to get the recruiter's contact information.

Once you have completed the initial paperwork with the recruiter, you likely will head to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). Remember, it is important to disclose all medical history. By not disclosing a medical condition, you are sure to be washed out of the enlistment process when it is discovered.

If you pass the medical evaluation and advance to the next step of the process, avoid activities that may cause medical issues, such as contact sports, skiing, skateboarding, etc. Any medical issues that arise before you leave for training may eliminate you from joining the Air Force all together. At least, it will delay your ship-out date that can affect the job to which you are assigned.

In addition to your medical qualifications, you also will be tested on your mental aptitude during MEPS. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test ranks your ability and qualification for specific jobs, as well as your ability to join the Air Force at all.

  1. Know what jobs you are interested in and learn what the required scores are for those jobs. (The recruiter can give you that information.)
  2. Study for the ASVAB. Do not leave it up to chance.
  3. If you took the ASVAB during high school and want a higher score, retake it at MEPS.

A third qualifying factor that MEPS personnel will look at is your criminal background. Again, remember to disclose any criminal history or traffic infractions. And, of course, do everything in your power to stay out of trouble before your ship-out date.

Once you pass all of these steps, you will pick from a list of available jobs for which you qualify. Once again, because there is a low supply of job vacancies, the Air Force can be pickier about who it takes. In the past, recruits waited for a specific job to become available before going to basic training. Now you will make a list of jobs, and the first one to come available will be the one you get.

Last, but definitely not least, you need to be physically prepared for the Air Force before going to basic training. As part of the plan to make sure that a higher percentage of recruits actually complete training, the Air Force now requires you to perform a physical fitness test before starting training.

  1. Know what your fitness requirements are.
  2. Find a fitness program designed for basic training, such as the one in The Ultimate Basic Training Guidebook.
  3. Start training well ahead of time, even before you meet with the recruiter.

The Air Force is a challenging, rewarding career. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it, and this starts at the beginning of the enlistment process.

This article was written by SrA Nicholas Van Wormer, author of The Ultimate Air Force Basic Training Guidebook, and Sgt. Michael Volkin.

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