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Master Sgt. Derick Heflin, 342nd Recruiting Squadron health professions recruiter, talks an applicant through the paperwork necessary to become a commissioned officer in the Air Force. Heflin was named one of AETC’s Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2013. (U.S. Air Force photo)
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Recruiter named one of AETC's top Airmen for 2013

Posted 6/10/2013   Updated 6/11/2013 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Hillary Stonemetz
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs

6/10/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- An Air Force recruiter stationed in Del City, Okla., was recently named as one of Air Education and Training Command's Outstanding Airmen of the Year for 2013.

Master Sgt. Derick Heflin, 342nd Recruiting Squadron health professions recruiter, joined the Air Force in 1999 from Albany, Ore. He started his Air Force career as a water and fuels systems maintenance technician before volunteering for recruiting duty in 2007. He was an enlisted accessions recruiter before becoming a health professions recruiter in 2010.

"My proudest moment as a recruiter was when an Airman I recruited came back from technical training and said, 'Thank you for changing my life,'" he said. "Nothing can compare to the power of aiding in the process of transforming a civilian to an American Airman."

Heflin's passion for his job has helped him excel in a competitive career field. That excellence paid off when AETC selected him as the top recruiter.

"It's a difficult job to take a doctor making $400,000 or $500,000 a year and talk them into serving their country for one-third the pay," said Lt. Col. Matthew Sandelier, 342nd Recruiting Squadron commander. "Master Sergeant Heflin has been outrageously successful at this. Last year he took the Surgeon General's No. 1 priority, recruiting a pulmonologist, and succeeded. He was the only guy out there who did that."

According to Master Sgt. Heather Poff, Heflin's former supervisor, Heflin took an outside-of-the-box approach to recruiting. He conferred with several pulmonologists in the field to find out from them where they go to look for jobs. He then advertised on a website popular with pulmonologists and attended a CHEST conference where he hosted a Center of Influence the night before the conference.

"His efforts garnered one very qualified and very motivated pulmonologist who is currently happily practicing medicine on active duty at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.," said Poff. "He was able to find the needle in the haystack and sell him on the Air Force. Not only did Master Sergeant Heflin sell the Air Force, he was of the epitome of service after the sale. He continued with his first class customer service by setting up a base tour for the pulmonologist to visit his gaining unit. He also facilitated the pulmonologist's house hunting and church selecting at his new assignment."

Instead of focusing on the number of doctors he was required to recruit, Heflin was motivated by the big picture of what he was asked to do.

"This award means the world to me and my family, but it also brings out the humbling reality of teamwork," Heflin said. "My motivation to be an outstanding Airman is to produce the next generation of health professionals who will save the lives of our Airmen on the front lines. Recruiters are in a unique position to be able to help shape the next generation's Air Force. The same doctor that I put in today could be the same person that saves my child's life 10 years down the road. Knowing the vital responsibility we carry compels me to be the best Airman I can possibly be each and every day."

In addition to the pulmonologist, during his time as a health professions recruiter, Heflin has recruited a flight surgeon, three family practice residents, a dentist and 25 future physicians.

"Doing the very best at our job is not directly dropping the bomb, or keeping a plane flying," Heflin said. "Air Force Recruiting Service's capability is to help the Air Force get the doctor that delivers the baby of an Airman or submitting the application of a future doctor that will clear your son or daughter to fly sorties. Seeing this and being recognized among the best in our area humbles and gratifies me."

Before becoming a recruiter, Heflin's uncle, retired Master Sgt. Neil Heflin, loadmaster and Gulf War veteran, guided his career.

"Whenever I need advice, he is my go-to person," Heflin said.

Since becoming a recruiter, Heflin found another mentor is his first flight chief, Chief Master Sgt. Reginald Prothro.

"The advice he has given me throughout my career has molded me into the recruiter that I am today," Heflin said.

In addition to his successful career, Heflin has furthered his education by completing his Community College of the Air Force and bachelor's degrees, and giving back to the community.

"We have done numerous food drives in the area," Heflin said. "Also we take care of the military welcome center for new Army recruits getting ready to arrive and depart basic training. I also organized the adoption of an elementary school by our flight. We go there once a month and provide assistance to the teachers."

Even after a tornado touched down less than a mile from his home May 20, Heflin's spirit of giving back to the community was undeterred. He and his wife, Christine, volunteered about 70 hours of their time to help their neighbors and restore the community.

"We cleaned up insulation and other debris in a farmer's hay fields in order for him t be able to earn a living bailing hay again," Heflin said. "We also helped salvage personal items from two homes, took in thousands of donations from around the country and disbursed them to over 11,000 displaced families and served lunch and dinner to over 700 volunteer relief workers."

"Master Sergeant Heflin is a true ambassador in blue," said Poff.

Heflin and the other AETC Outstanding Airman of the Year winners will go on to compete at the Air Force level.

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