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Successful Air Force recruits represent best of the best

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- After completing a 12-year stint with Air Force Recruiting Service and returning to an Air Force installation, it didn't take long for my peers to ask, "How hard can it be to put someone into the Air Force?" 

I must admit, I'm surprised at how many Air Force members don't know much about the qualification process for a new recruit or realize they belong to such a quality organization. 

I'm proud to let them know the Air Force has the highest qualifications of any federal, state or local agency. In order to help them understand how high our standards are, I ask them to visualize a classroom of 100 high school students. This provides a perfect setting for my elimination process. 

My first question to the students is on height and weight. Your allowable weight is based on height in inches. For example, the maximum allowable weight for a male at 72 inches is 202 pounds. With today's steady diet of fast foods, soda, and snacks, I can easily dismiss 35 of the 100 students for being overweight.
 
My next question involves illegal drug use. Any drug use other than the experimental use of marijuana is permanently disqualifying, including a one-time offense from 10 years ago. This is the factor that separates the Air Force from other agencies. In a society where drug use is widespread, I ask 15 students to leave.
 
All new recruits initiate their background check in the recruiter's office with the completion and submission of the Security Form 86, Questionnaire for National Security Form. An in-depth police check is under way and many of our youth have juvenile criminal records. A charge of fighting and underage tobacco use combined in a three-year period is disqualifying. I ask 15 more students to leave.
 
The Defense Department 2807, Medical Pre-Screening Form, is probably the most frustrating aspect for recruiters. This form asks approximately 75 potentially disqualifying questions. When an applicant answers yes to any of these questions, they're required to retrieve all medical records pertaining to that response. These records are forwarded to the military entrance processing station where they're reviewed by a chief medical officer who then makes a qualification determination. Unfortunately, due to their "yes" responses on the DD Form 2807, I have to ask 15 additional students to leave for a variety of medical reasons.
 
All applicants must take and pass the armed services vocational aptitude battery with a score of 36. It isn't uncommon to see single-digit scores. I have to ask 15 more students to leave. Single parents and married applicants with more than one child are also disqualified. 

So out of 100 potential applicants, five meet initial qualifications for Air Force service. At this point, I usually get this response from my peers: "I had no idea that it was that difficult." I remind them we're getting a quality person in every recruit who makes it into the Air Force. 

From there, it's our responsibility to be positive role models, lead by example, get to know them, challenge them and help them grow. This is how we ensure we maintain our position as the world's greatest Air Force.