IRWINDALE, Calif. (AFNS) —
It wasn’t just any other day in beautiful Southern California. A sunny, picturesque day with temperatures in the low 80s. If you didn’t know any better, you would have thought that a fog had rolled in just as the festivities had begun. But no, that smoke accompanied by the distinct scent of burnt rubber is exactly why thousands of fans congregated together at the Irwindale Speedway; it was race day.
Motorsport fans traveled from all over to attend the Formula Drift event, Oct. 14. U.S. Air Force recruiters with the 369th Recruiting Squadron, Air National Guard and Air Force Reserves spent the morning showing the F-16 Fighting Falcon static display that sat to the left of the hangar, an interactive recruiting asset that allows the public to try their hand at three Air Force specialties; aircraft maintenance, metal fabrication and a virtual reality simulation of in-flight refueling operations. The recruiting setup drew attention from a variety of patrons, but it isn’t every day when the Air Force’s highest enlisted leader pays a visit.
Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass’ first stop of the day was spent meeting recruiters who were supporting the event, where she had the opportunity to recognize a few Airmen who had been identified by 369th RCS leadership as superior performers.
“These three individuals have really embraced the challenges that we have faced in the Air Force Recruiting Service this year,” said Chief Master Sgt. Jeff Kelloway, 369th RCS senior enlisted leader. “They have really strived to master their craft and improve their skills, and really have exceeded on all fronts this year despite those challenges; we couldn’t be more impressed with their actions and what they have accomplished.”
Tech. Sgt. Aaron Munoz-Case, one of the three recruiters recognized, was celebrated by his leadership for his initiative to lean into utilizing social media to reach a wider audience, something that Bass shared that she can relate to. Munoz-Case said he was excited to meet a senior leader who understands the value of social media as a communication platform.
“I really appreciate that she recognizes the need for Air Force recruiters and leaders to have a digital footprint,” Munoz-Case said. “I think it helps us reach potential applicants from all walks of life and allows us to connect with communities who may not know what being an Airman is all about.”
Munoz-Case said that her recognition motivated him but he was especially inspired after she joined their team to interact with Formula Drift patrons.
Bass spent time sharing her Air Force story and conversing with several of the motorsports fans who took the time to stop in and experience the recruiting booth. After talking with several potential future Airmen, Bass was in for a thrill as she continued to her next stop of the day’s events.
Bass met with Amanda Sorensen, AFRS-sponsored driver, who daringly invited her to join in a joyride in the Air Force-branded, high-performance stock car. Sorensen showcased her professional driving abilities by expertly balancing speed and control while drifting around the track, filling the stadium with the smoke and aroma of burnt rubber. Sorensen exited the track to drive Bass to meet her brother, Branden, who is also an AFRS-sponsored Formula Drift driver, at the recruiting booth where the trio met fans and signed autographs.
“I couldn’t be more excited about the partnership that the Air Force has with Team Sorensen, I think between that partnership and events like this, it allows us to connect with a diverse demographic of people from all ages and economic backgrounds, and that is important to our Air Force.” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass
Among the fans in the crowd were an especially proud group of soon-to-be Airmen and their families. Bass took a moment to personally congratulate the young men and women who were minutes away from reciting the oath of enlistment on the track during the evening’s opening ceremony.
Following the opening ceremony, the crowd roared with a combination of praise for the patriotic introduction and excitement for the day’s main event. Bass finished the evening enjoying the Formula Drift event, but she spent the day experiencing something uniquely special. Bass witnessed two key moments in the recruiting process; an applicant’s introduction to the Air Force and the recruit’s reciting the oath that every enlisted service member, past, present and future decrees to gain admittance into the armed services.
“It was really inspiring to get to spend time with our recruiters who are out there looking for the next generation of Airmen,” Bass said. “I particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to meet some of their recruits and hear their ‘why’ before watching those 18 young men and women raise their right hands and make that commitment in front of 45,000 fans. It’s a reminder to everyone of what makes us the world’s greatest Air Force.”