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In challenging recruiting year, Air Force stages largest-ever presence at EAA

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Posted at 6:15 PM, Jul 27, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-28 08:32:46-04

(NBC 26) — EAA AirVenture could help determine Mackenzie Baneck's future.

Baneck is "50-50" on whether to join the U.S. Air Force.

"Every year, coming [to EAA] is a little more of a push to [join]," said Baneck, 21, from Oshkosh.

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Mackenzie Baneck, from Oshkosh, might join the U.S. Air Force.

"Just seeing service members out here and... how much they love what they do," is part of what influences Baneck, she said.

And that is by design.

EAA AirVenture is important to U.S. Air Force recruitment, said Brig. Gen. Chris Amrhein, commander of recruiting for the entire Air Force.

He hopes some attendees will join the Air Force based on their experience with the Air Force equipment and personnel at EAA.

The group of U.S. Air Force planes and airmen at EAA is the largest it has ever been, all with the goal of helping to improve Air Force recruiting.

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"Any time we can get out and tell our story is unbelievably effective," said Amrhein.

Amrhein estimates the Air Force will miss its recruiting goal this year by approximately 10%. He added, though, that the most recent three months were the best of the year so far, and recent numbers are improving.

Challenges to recruitment include the competitive job market and fewer potential recruits who are familiar with the Air Force, Amrhein said.

He said fewer people, for example, have a family member who served in the military.

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Brig. Gen. Chris Amrhein, who commands recruiting for the entire U.S. Air Force, hopes some attendees will join the Air Force based on their experience at EAA.

The Air Force is not alone in recruitment challenges.

Compared to goals for this point in the year, the U.S. Army has met 72% of its recruiting goal, the U.S. Navy has met 70%, and the U.S. Air Force has met 83%, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

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EAA stands as an "amazing opportunity... it's all about brand awareness," said Air Force TSgt. Lee Ciokiewicz.

Fans of aviation come from all over the country to EAA, Ciokiewicz said.

"So, that is right in our wheelhouse."