At the beginning of 2020, the Air Force entered into a three-year agreement with the Chick-fil-A College Football Hall of Fame to build a permanent exhibit for the Air Force AIR RAID QB Sim experience. This virtual reality and sensor technology is used to train quarterbacks at both the college and pro level. In the experience, visitors are playing against an Air Force defense and the stadium features Air Force branding. Visitors can elect to participate at the pee wee, high school, college or professional level.
The HOF, which is located in Atlanta, attracts more than a million fans a year, and now the Air Force has a major presence there, with hopes of attracting recruits to explore the opportunities of serving in the world.
“The College Football Hall of Fame is an awesome opportunity for the Air Force and all of its components to get national exposure with the hall having over 1 million visitors per year,” said Master Sgt. Daniel Bedford, Air Force Recruiting Service‘s national events and program manager. “With the college football season upon us now and families looking for things to do, the hall offers a safe environment for people to enjoy our college football heritage. The location is a great hub with Atlanta being one of the largest connection airports in the country. Air Force Reserve Command headquarters is less than 2 hours away and Dobbins Air Reserve Base is located in Atlanta.”
For Air Force Total Force recruiting, the HOF will offer a venue to not only brand the Air Force, but as a location to hold events.
“We are planning on building our partnership/relationship with the hall and having (delayed enlistment program) tours, squadron quarterly training meetings, possible enlistments and much more,” Bedford said. “The Hall of Fame was temporarily closed starting in March due to COVID-19 and then suffered damage following protests in downtown Atlanta. As of 1 July, the Hall is back open to the general public.”
A group of total force recruiters visited the HOF Aug. 28 to check out Air Raid and meet and greet with members of the staff.
“The College Football Hall of Fame staff did a phenomenal job hosting and touring our Total Force Recruiting team within their innovative facility,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jose Padilla, Georgia Air National Guard – Joint Force Headquarters state production superintendent. “The future of Air Force recruiting is seen full heartedly, with all the accommodations that the HOF has to offer and provide. From prospects enjoying the raid sim, to tossing a ball with future co-workers; the HOF and Air Force experience truly brings big value to recruiting as a whole.”
For a Reserve recruiter who lives and works in the Atlanta metropolitan area, the value of this partnership is priceless and not his first time working here. The Air Force Reserve has some history with the College Football HOF, as they partnered to sponsor the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl on several occasions. The game is considered the championship game between Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
“I believe the location is perfect and the virtual kiosk outside on the street, which displays information, is awesome. It is located a half of block from the Mercedes Benz stadium and more than 70% of their patrons pass by,” said Senior Master Sgt. Derrick Mills, Dobbins ARB senior recruiter. “This location is prime real estate in downtown Atlanta which overlooks Centennial Park, the Ferris wheel, and other major attractions. I truly believe the advertising will pay huge dividends due to all the major sporting events that are held annually in Atlanta.”
The AIR RAID Sim is a state of the art virtual experience and must visit attraction within the College Football HOF.
“Placing a prospect in the infield calling plays like a true quarterback, inspires both leadership and excellence, two of our Air Force core values,” Padilla said. “Who doesn’t want to be the QB of your favorite College football team? Not to mention, bringing friends to watch the action from the bleachers, while witnessing the Air Force brand. Pair this with one of our Total Force enthusiastic recruiters, and it is a win-win experience for all.”
For the total force recruiters who were able to go to the HOF, the experience was memorable and also gave valuable insight into how the total force can work together to use this sponsorship.
“I believe that recruiting partnership amongst our three blue components is very important. As a prior AFRS recruiter, and now an Air National Guard recruiter, I am able to see both the similarities and differences between our components, which brings me to the importance of diversity within our Air Force family,” Padilla said. “Communicating with each other, sharing experiences and knowledge adds value to our Total Force recruiting mission. It was great to see some recruiters that I have worked with for years, and also to meet some of the new faces within our special duty.”
Being able to use the HOF for Air Force recruiting events has all the recruiters excited about the possible opportunities.
“A mass swear-in would be amazing and a school tour would be even better,” Padilla said. “Getting local Junior ROTCs, and or senior classes to come experience the HOF for themselves would be awesome. Being able to set up recruiting booths, and having some of our recruiters available to answer any particular questions that the applicants might have. The students would also experience what the HOF has to offer. Additionally, the HOF has major potential for us to conduct recruiting training seminars, or even maybe some Total Force recruiting team building events.”
For Mills, living locally near the HOF gives his squadron a major venue to use their facilities and highlight the partnership.
“We’re currently working on a mass enlistment for next month and working out details with the HOF for future training meeting opportunities,” he said. “This is the best partnership I have been a part of in 14 years. Our marketing team did a great job of setting this up.”