The Air Force recruited 33,071 new airmen in fiscal 2017 — a slight drop from the previous year’s recruiting bonanza, but still far above other recent years.
The Air Force Recruiting Service on Oct. 6 announced that the service had met its recruitment goals and helped grow the service’s end strength to 322,500.
On Friday, AFRS said that the 2017 recruiting drive brought in 31,001 newly enlisted airmen, 295 who were previously enlisted, 1,201 new Line of the Air Force officers, 529 health professionals, and 45 chaplains.
“Once again, our Air Force recruiters rallied to change the vector of the Air Force, growing our family and positively changing the lives of 33,000 young people and starting them on the greatest adventure of their lives,” AFRS commander Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak said in the Oct. 6 release.
The Air Force brought in 33,645 new recruits in fiscal 2016, which was the highest recruitment since the Vietnam era, and smashed through that year’s original goal of 28,000.
In fiscal 2015, the Air Force recruited 24,137 airmen.
The recruiting boom is being driven by the Air Force’s need to rebuild the force after years of manning declines ― particularly in 2014, when nearly 20,000 airmen were cut as part of a major drawdown.
Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has repeatedly expressed concern about the service’s undermanning.
“We are a service that is too small for what‘s being asked of us,” Wilson said in an Aug. 31 editorial board meeting with Air Force Times.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.