It’s game time, but Staff Sgt. Geoffrey Moshier isn’t feeling terribly confident. Despite the fact he has two fists full of cash, $3,000 in his left hand and $1,400 in his right, the self-proclaimed introvert sits awkwardly behind his U.S. Air Force display table, rehearsing his sales pitch in his head.
It’s his first time in the “field” as a recruiter.
A school bell rings and students swarm the cafeteria. He feels like all of them are staring at him as they pass by. Finally, a small group makes their way to his table, intrigued by the handfuls of play money.
“Who wants to play a little game?” Moshier asks. “I need two volunteers. Who wants to be a college graduate and who wants to join the United States Air Force?”
Moshier hands the paper money, which he had grabbed from a board game in his closet, to the two students. He staked $3,000 to the four-year college graduate and $1,400 to the student joining the Air Force. Each amount represents the national average income for the two positions. Then he began deducting health care costs, insurance premiums, utilities, student loan payments, rent and food. Moshier begins to relax as he sees the students’ reaction.
“The students see quickly in a very practical way how the costs of life outside of school add up,” Moshier said. “Removing the cash, even though it’s toy money, from their hands makes it real. It’s an emotional experience.”
Moshier explains to the students how a college graduate spends $1,800 a month on normal living expenses, while all these costs for enlisted personnel are covered by the Air Force. The students’ eyes widen as they discuss amongst themselves. Moshier knows he has already peaked their interest and he has yet to tell them about the 100 percent paid tuition or the nearly $1,000 a month in pay raises over the first four years of military service.
“I truly enjoy letting these students know they have options for the future,” he said.
Moshier himself is a living example of the life-changing options service in the Air Force can provide. He’s been on both sides of the coin incurring over $75,000 in student loan debt leading to his decision to enlist. However, he became an example precisely because his service options had dwindled to just two; become a recruiter or end his terms of service with the Air Force.
The message came in an out-of-the-blue email, notifying him that he had been selected for a developmental special duty (DSD). The terms of DSD were simple– leave his career field as a logistics plans journeyman to become a recruiter or be discharged from the Air Force at the end of his remaining service commitment.
“It blindsided me,” Moshier said of his selection to recruiting. He had to go home and have a heart-to-heart talk with his wife. He also knew this would delay his goals of serving overseas or gaining a special duty assignment in logistics, but he loved the Air Force and accepted that the needs of the service outweighed his own.
In October 2013, the Air Force changed the special duty procedures from a volunteer system to a nomination process from squadron commanders in order to get the highest caliber Airmen into 10 critical leadership positions, recruiting being one of them. The goal of DSD is to help progress the careers of noncommissioned officers from the ranks of staff to master sergeant through the leadership of other Airmen. Moshier never fully understood the process. He didn’t know when his command asked him months before during a squadron luncheon to rate a list of special duty assignments and pick his top three, he was unintentionally shaping his future.
Six months after his selection, Moshier is now a recruiter in Pittsburgh. He is responsible for the middle-class northern area of the city and he’s struggling with the new job.
“My first year was exceptionally challenging for me,” Moshier said. “I was number 55 of 56 recruiters in our squadron. I was at 36 percent of my expected mission of bringing people into the Air Force.” It was a huge internal struggle and he had to figure out what he was doing wrong.
Moshier took his experience of learning the administrative practices and complicated programs of his logistics career and made it work for him in his new line of duty. He began by tackling the two toughest jobs, enlisting prior service personnel and recruiting special operators into the Air Force, making each process his own.
“Business started to pick up and I began to understand how to talk to people and to learn what people are looking for when they are talking to me,” he said. He gained confidence and the 311th Recruiting Squadron commander, Lt. Col. Alexander Ackerman, had taken notice.
“I’ve seen an amazing growth in Staff Sgt. Moshier, in the last year and a half. He has done a great job of building a trust and rapport with his applicants,” Ackerman said of Moshier. “He has an incredible sense of attention to detail. He was selected to be a recruiter for a reason.”
From a commander’s perspective, Ackerman said he believes the commanders and chiefs who are nominating these candidates through the DSD process are choosing the right people, outstanding performers who are success-driven Airmen in their fields.
“We take Airmen into recruiting who are doing great in their jobs and turn them into phenomenal public speakers and advocates for the Air Force,” Ackerman said. “They have the ability and the confidence to walk up to strangers on the street or work a room and share the vision and the benefits of the Air Force. As we look at creating senior leaders through recruiting, that’s a great skill set to have.”
Moshier agreed stepping past his comfort zone has completely changed his self-assurance and self-image. Getting past his own hurdles has given him practical experience and tools to help young men and women transition from civilian to Airman.
“The first things we have to get past are the stereotypes. Students thinking we are liars, high school guidance counselors thinking we are stealing the students from colleges or colleges thinking we are taking away their tuition money,” Moshier said of the push-pull relationship of engaging with potential recruits.
“They think you are trying to take something from them,” Moshier said of high school students. “The reality is we are trying to give them an opportunity they were not even aware of in the first place, which may be an even better path to where they are trying to go for their future.”
Moshier said he believes with a smaller military there are fewer opportunities to educate young adults on the benefits of enlisting. This means he has to work even harder to get out into the community, especially the rural areas, and interact with young people.
With tighter security and regulations it’s harder for recruiters to gain access to high schools. Appointment times have to be scheduled and only students who sign up can attend. Gone are the days of spreading the word simply by walking the hallways and being a constant presence in schools.
“I have to go where the potential recruits are, meaning football games and comic conventions,” he said. “It’s not easy tracking down young people when the majority of them are inside playing video games.”
Moshier will even wear his recruiting t-shirts around town or on dates with his wife.
“I talk to everyone now, because you never know, the next person you talk to might be the next person who is going to be interested in the Air Force and that may be an opportunity to change someone’s life,” Moshier said. “It drives my wife crazy.”
For Moshier, all the hard work is paying off. In the last two years he has exceeded all his squadron’s goals surpassing his quotas at the rate of 140 percent. He now ranks in the top 5 percent of the recruiters in his squadron.
Moshier’s key to success the last two years; effectively telling his own story.
“You have to be able to provide proof,” he said. “I can tell you the Air Force offers X, Y and Z and we are going to take care of your family, but how do I show you that? I can only show you through my own experiences.”
Moshier was a week out from being deployed to Afghanistan when he found out his grandmother was ill and on her deathbed. The Air Force got him back to his family for a weekend and he was able to see his grandmother the day before she passed. He was able to go on and do his mission, but they got him home to take care of his family.
“That’s what motivates me. The Air Force has always taken care of my family and me,” Moshier said. “It’s why I’ll never complain and I’ll continue on taking care of the Air Force.”