Georgia Air Guard recruiter sets all-time state record for monthly accessions amid stress of COVID-19

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Nancy Goldberger
  • 116th Air Control Wing

Despite the obstacles COVID-19 presented, one Air National Guard recruiter broke the monthly record in Georgia, for the number of recruits she brought in during March 2020.

Tech. Sgt. Lauren Trail, a Georgia Air National Guard recruiter, is credited with getting 13 new members sworn in last month — reaching more than 300% of her set goal.

Military applicants are screened with a set of standards. Due to lengthy paperwork procedures, background checks, and various tests, getting just a few people through the whole process can be challenging.

The record of eleven was held for years, until Tech. Sgt. Reza Whitehead, from the Savannah recruiting facility, achieved 12 enlistments in a single month last year.

Before Senior Master Sgt. Jose Padilla, the GA ANG state recruiter superintendent, helped 11 applicants in the door in one month, there was no recollection of a recruiter bringing in more than 10 in a single month in the state of Georgia, according to Chief Master Sgt. Michael Morris, the recruiting career field functional manager at the National Guard Bureau.

“When the record was 12, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh! I don’t know if I’ll be able to do this,’” shared Trail. “To be able to break the record in such odd circumstances, the sky’s the limit. It proves we can do anything.”

Trail wasn’t the only one excited about her achievement.

“It fills me with joy to see her succeed like that,” said Padilla. “I was Sgt. Trail’s recruiter. It’s been an honor to watch her grow.”

Difficulties come with recruiting, but COVID-19 has presented greater obstacles.

“People are doing the right thing and sheltering in place, but some of our resources have significantly diminished,” explained Trail.

Though recruiters’ community engagement has been greatly hampered with school closures, temporary closure of several military entrance processing stations, and direction to “stay at home” recruiters adjusted to continue serving applicants, according to Padilla.

“It’s imperative for us to fulfill our mission, especially getting people in critical career fields like medical,” said Padilla. “We can’t just close the doors. We have to find creative ways.”

The recruiters turned to virtual, encrypted platforms to handle paperwork, video chats for in-person meetings and adjusted work schedules to balance working from home and applicants’ needs.

The virtual option was sanctioned by state leadership and Air National Guard Recruiting, according to Padilla. It’s also possible this could change the way they do things in the future.

“It’s been a wonderful month, but this has been the hardest month of my career,” Trail admitted, reflecting on more than 2 1/2 years as a recruiter. “But I could not have been more blessed to have the applicants I did this month. They were so understanding and flexible.”

Trail’s drive wasn’t so much about numbers, but about the applicants and the mission, she said.

“If we don’t put in the right people, if we don't put in enough people, ultimately the mission will fail,” said Trail. “Our numbers are new faces in the GA ANG. They’re the people going on deployments, fixing the aircraft, and the ones taking care of our members.”

Maintaining a viable force is one of the top priorities of Trail’s leadership.

“I’m so proud of Sgt. Trail and all the recruiting team for their tenacity and creativity during this challenging time,” said Col. Amy Holbeck, commander of the 116th Air Control Wing. “The men and women of the 116th Air Control Wing are strong and resilient, but every new person coming in makes us even stronger.”