The Air Force surpassed its recruiting goal for fiscal 2019 by more than 500, according to statistics released by the Air Force Recruiting Service.
In all, the active-duty Air Force recruited 34,660 airmen in 2019. That’s about 1,000 more than the 33,645 new airmen it recruited in fiscal 2016.
The bulk of the newly accessed airmen were enlisted, which accounted for 32,421 new recruits — nearly 9 percent more enlisted recruits than in fiscal 2018. And of those enlisted recruits, 250 previously served in the military.
The Air Force also brought on 1,442 line officers, 763 health professionals, and 34 chaplains in 2019.
The total 2019 active-duty results beat the Air Force’s goal of bringing on 34,149 new active-duty airmen. AFRS said the active-duty goals were to access 32,050 enlisted, 1,230 line officers, 836 health professionals, and 33 chaplains. The only active-duty category that fell short was health professionals.
The Air Force Reserve also brought on 7,323 enlisted recruits, 982 line officers, 361 health professionals, and 50 chaplains, for a total of 8,716 in 2019.
The Air National Guard accessed 11,075 enlisted and 1,929 officers in 2019. Both the Reserve and Guard also met their recruiting goals, AFRS spokeswoman Christine Cuttita said in an email. Cuttita said the Air National Guard reached an end strength of 107,197 in 2019, slightly above its authorized end strength of 107,100.
“Based on high goals, a strong economy and low unemployment, this is a true testament to the outstanding professionals we have in the total force recruiting enterprise,” Cuttita said.
The growth is a sign of how the Air Force continues to rebuild its ranks after the steep drawdown of 2014, which partially continued into 2015. During those years, active-duty enlisted recruitment plunged to about 24,000 each year.
At the same time as the service tries to grow, its recruiters are stretched far more thinly than recruiters from other services. Not only is each Air Force recruiter expected to bring on more new recruits, per capita, than recruiters from other branches of the military, but Air Force recruiters commonly have to cover vast areas of territory, which can require hours of driving.
The Air Force planned to add 4,700 total force airmen in 2019, bringing its overall end strength to about 506,200.
Correction: The story has been updated to remove inaccurate comparisons to historical recruiting data.
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.