When the world shut down last year and people shut themselves in during the COVID-19 pandemic, Airmen charged with inspiring and engaging the next generation discovered new ways to showcase America’s air power and dominate pixel space. To their surprise, their recruiting efforts earned the Air Force a Guinness World Records title for the largest online jigsaw puzzle.
“This record-breaking accomplishment of our Air Force recruiting team is just another example of how our innovative Airmen adapt and overcome,” said Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, Air Force Recruiting Service commander. “I couldn’t be more proud of how our team rapidly developed the Million Piece Mission during a time when virtual interaction was how we connected. It is simply fantastic. Setting world records and breaking barriers is what Aiming High is all about.”
In June 2020, the Million Piece Mission brought an interactive, billion-pixel image of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force to couches everywhere. Air Force Recruiting Service developed the interactive puzzle made up of 1.2 million pieces. More than 31,000 players around the world worked together to solve the jigsaw and they accomplished the mission in 18 days, 16 hours and 55 minutes.
During the pandemic, recruiters are dependent on virtual experiences for outreach events especially where recruiting offices are closed or operating in a minimal, in-person capacity and mobile tours are on hold.
“Air Force Recruiting Service’s primary mission is to engage with the American public, highlighting the career opportunities and benefits of serving in the Air Force,” said Maj. Jason Wyche, chief of the National Events Branch at AFRS, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph. “The ‘Million Piece Mission’ enabled us to do that in a fun and unique way, while also allowing Americans to learn about the Air Force’s history through exploring the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force from the comfort of their homes.”
Million Piece Mission is free to play and accessed on AirForcePuzzle.com by desktop and mobile devices. Austin-based full-service creative agency GSD&M – the Air Force’s creative partner for 20 years – envisioned this concept, along with development partner, Active Theory.
Each visitor to the jigsaw’s online location averaged 12 minutes on the site and two-thirds of them fit the optimal 18- to 34-year old, problem-solving demographic that the Air Force looks for in potential recruits. According to GSD&M, a 97.4% positive rating indicates people enjoyed their experience with Air Force history.
Two Air Force missions were pieced together to accomplish the Guinness World Records feat.
“The National Museum of the U.S. Air Force and Air Force Recruiting Service have similar missions to inspire youth toward careers in the U.S. Air Force,” said David Tillotson, museum director. “So it’s a perfect fit for the world’s largest military aviation museum to be featured on the world’s largest virtual puzzle.”
The completed full image shows a collection of aircraft on display at the museum’s fourth building that was captured after the building’s opening in 2016 by photographer John Opie. As a puzzle, the image contains 3,000 tiles and a total of 1.2 million pieces.
As the world slowly finds a safer way to fit in COVID-19’s “new normal,” the Air Force plans to continue virtual recruiting efforts.