Col. Michael Vlk, 372nd Recruiting Group commander, swore in 20 Airmen into the Air Force at an induction ceremony May 28 at the Spring Mobile Ballpark following a Salt Lake Bees game. Vlk praised the support the organization has given the Air Force as he talked about special military events held in conjunction with the Bees in the past by local recruiters.
He recalled that last year the Bees organization had been presented the American Spirit Award, a distinguished honor given by Air Force Recruiters to such prestigious recipients as Bob Hope, the Indianapolis Colts and the St. Louis Cardinals.
Vlk said the Bees worked closely with the 368th Recruiting Squadron as it was a military appreciation night and a special invitation had been offered to those who served in the military.
This is Vlk's first experience in the state of Utah, and he said that he and his family are loving the experience. "The schools are great, People are friendly and the town is very military friendly as well," he said.
He brought his two daughters to the game, one is 10 1/2, and the other 9. "I'll be corrected if I don't say 10 and a half," he said, smiling.
"A lot of people are wondering with the economy the way it is if the Air Force is still asking for people to come in," said Vlk. "And the answer to that is absolutely."
"We trying to recruit 29,000 this year and it's going to be right around 30,000 next year," he said. "There are a lot of opportunities - over 140 job specialties the Air Force offers people to go into.
"The education benefits, the travel benefits, the opportunity to serve your country (are among those reasons to consider military service). Because it is getting more competitive out there because of the economy being the way it is, retention is pretty good in the Air Force so right now the recruits that we are getting are some of the highest quality folks we've seen in a long time," Vlk said. "That's a great benefit to the military and to the nation."
Vlk points out that more than 75 percent of American youth aren't qualified to serve in the Air Force due to being overweight or having done something in their past which disqualifies them from service. Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in the military.
"One of the big things I appreciate about the Air Force is the family atmosphere, and when you get the support of the local community and of the base supporting you, it just makes the job so much easier," Vlk said.
He said that when he joined the Air Force he told himself he would stay as long as "he was having fun." That was almost 25 years ago. Since his initial service, he said he keeps meeting people, getting challenged, keeps having fun and good experiences. His personal reason for staying in he said is that it is the people and the relationships that are built that make the difference.
"Everybody you meet and work with is professional - they have a mission to do, they're working toward a common goal which is defense of the country," Vlk said. "It's the camaraderie you build, and if you go off to the battle like so many folks are doing now, you gain an even closer bond."
Vlk has deployed several times himself.
His said his nephew is checking out the Air Force, as he gets closer to graduating from high school.
"This is what seems to happen is that as students get closer to the end of high school if they haven't decided what they want to do that is when many will check out service in the military," Vlk said.
"Going into the military is often a good idea. It gives you an opportunity to gain some self discipline, grow and mature a little bit. You have the opportunity of getting more education, and usually get some skills in maybe something you had never thought about trying and so it opens up some doors that you may not even have been aware of before. It may get you down a path towards college even if you don't want to stay in the military after your initial tour."
Vlk thanked the Bees and the community in general for their support of the military.