Air Force Chief of Staff Takes in NASCAR Race with Total Force Recruiting

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Chance Babin
  • Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

The Air Force and Air Force Total Force Recruiting were on full display at the Bluegreen Vacations 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at the ISM Raceway here Veterans Day weekend.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein spent a day at the track visiting with Air Force recruiters, including Air Force Recruiting Service Commander Maj. Gen. Jeannie Leavitt. Goldfein also administered the oath of enlistment to 20 of the newest members of the Air Force inside the track’s infield and met with members of Richard Petty Motor Sports, which Air Force Recruiting has been sponsoring for 11 years.

Prior to the enlistment ceremony, Goldfein had the chance to chat with the new enlistees.

“I’m always impressed with the quality of the individuals and I love the diversity we see as well,” he said. “We really do look like America. As I had a chance to ask each of them about why they decided to join, the common theme was, ‘I want to serve.’ I always get recharged when I get a chance to see the quality of individuals who raise their right hand and join us.”

The Air Force’s involvement with NASCAR and partnership with Richard Petty Motor Sports helps Air Force Recruiting Service meet its mission of inspiring the nation’s brightest young men and women to service. As one of the most popular spectator sports in the United States, with a large and patriotic fan base, NASCAR provides an ideal recruiting landscape for young people interested in science, technology, engineering and math, as well as the tech tinkerer.

“One of the nice things about this particular sport is it’s a team sport,” Goldfein said. “It’s the driver, the pit crew, all of the engineers, the folks up top monitoring everything. The race is really run in the pits. It’s very similar to the way we do air power. The fight is won on the flight line in many ways. There’s a lot of commonality to what we do in the Air Force producing air and space power and what we see here at NASCAR. It’s been fun to be part of it.”

Bubba Wallace, the driver of Richard Petty Motor Sport’s No. 43 car, said NASCAR and the Air Force are a perfect fit.

“NASCAR is trying to get more young people out to the racetrack and when they come they get to see things like the Hangar (the Air Force’s maintenance-inspired recruiting station) and they can get insight from the recruiters on how they can be part of the Air Force,” Wallace said. “We can cross platforms very easily and they get to see the best of both worlds, NASCAR and the Air Force.”

Richard Petty, the co-owner of Richard Petty Motor Sports and NASCAR Hall of Fame driver, won 200 races in a career that spanned three decades. He said NASCAR and the Air Force are great partners.

“The Air Force doesn’t fly just because the pilot gets in the plane,” he said. “A lot of people have to work on that plane and do the maintenance. It’s the same in racing. We have to build the car to begin with and maintain it and make sure it is performing like it should. Then you put the pilot or the driver in and say, ‘OK, you go do your thing.’”

One of the highlights of the race weekend was the paint scheme of the No. 43 car, which was painted to resemble the iconic A-10 Warthog, right down to the tiger shark teeth on the grill.

“It’s hands down the best paint scheme of the season,” Wallace said. “The A-10 Warthog is one of the baddest planes out there. By the time you hear it coming it’s too late. The way we were able to portray it on our Chevrolet was super incredible.”

Having the Air Force paint scheme on Veterans Day weekend was a way for the Air Force and NASCAR to pay homage to the military.

“We’ve been a big supporter of the military before they got involved with our race car,” Petty said. “They go out and protect us. You may never see them, but they are keeping us safe. They give us the freedom to do what we do and we appreciate that more than what they do with the race car.”

Air Force recruiters said they were excited to have the chief of staff at the race.

“To have the CSAF in attendance is invaluable,” said Master Sgt. Sean Christian, AFRS noncommissioned officer in charge of special events. “He understands the value of reaching the masses to communicate the Air Force message. NASCAR is just the vehicle we use to communicate that message. Our recruiters work their tails off, so it was great to see the CSAF engage with them and seek to understand how he could help them complete the mission.”

The Air Force has a very modest NASCAR budget, compared to other sponsors.

“NASCAR validation comes from the numbers generated through our media efforts,” Christian said. “Every year we reassess the program to ensure it lines up with our target goals. NASCAR numbers continue to give us a three-to-one return on investment.”

“I thought it was excellent to have the CSAF visit our recruiting event,” said Senior Master Sgt. Jeffrey Ossman, a Reserve recruiter flight chief for the 944th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. “We appreciated the opportunity to show our passion for recruiting. Knowing General Goldfein is this engaged reinforced our confidence at the highest levels of Air Force leadership. Having his support meant a lot to the recruiters. And the fact that he spoke to each of the new enlistees individually was a homerun. They were excited to be a part of something this large.”

As Total Force recruiting becomes the norm for the Air Force, recruiters are getting more used to sharing leads.

“I love working with the other Air Force recruiters – active duty and Air National Guard,” Ossman said. “We are developing strong bonds throughout the Phoenix community by sharing information and resources. I am confident this will benefit all of us in the future.”

Goldfein said he liked what he saw at the ISM raceway. “Thanks to Richard Petty’s team,” he said. “The partnership we have with his team and Bubba and the No. 43 car is pretty special. It’s a great relationship. I hope it continues.”