Recruiter's professional relationship with Airman's family saves a life|
Posted 12/19/2013 Updated 12/19/2013
by Christa D'Andrea
Air Force Recruiting Service Public Affairs
12/19/2013 - JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- When the text came into his phone Oct. 30, Staff Sgt. James Tench immediately picked up the phone to call the sender. This text, unlike the hundreds of others received, wasn't a question from a recruit; it was from a mother who was crying out for help.
The mother of an Airman, who Tench had recruited and put into the Air Force just six months ago, was reaching out to the recruiter for support. Her son, a technical school trainee, had written a disturbing status on his Facebook page that said, "last night was unsuccessful, but I will try again."
This, among a rash of other grim social media posts, raised a red flag for this Air Force mom.
"The mother told me I was his [the Airman's] mentor and that she needed my help," said Tench, a nine-year Air Force veteran assigned to the 313th Recruiting Squadron, headquartered in North Syracuse, N.Y.
Tench had been working with the individual since the Airman was a junior in high school.
"I had a great relationship with the whole family and they always knew they could trust me," Tench said.
This trust is what led the anxious mother to call the Albany, N.Y., recruiter.
Tench said when the mother first called she was extremely worried about her son and described how the Airman had written a farewell letter to the family and that he had an "unattached attitude," which was outside her son's normal behavior and character.
The recruiter's first reaction was to calm her down.
"I knew the Airman was currently in class so he was in a safe environment," Tench described.
He also indicated the mother was worried this would harm her son's career, but "I told her that our first priority is his life and well-being and that the Air Force will take care of him."
He then called Master Sgt. George Baker, the 313th RCS first sergeant. Baker was returning home from an event with other squadron members at the time the call came in.
"I Googled the number for the Airman's command post, and was transferred to the young man's first sergeant," Baker said.
After reviewing the Airman's Facebook page, "I urged him [the first sergeant] to get eyes on the Airman immediately, which they did."
Baker said what struck him the most was the Airman's friends actually hit "like" on the grim posts that had been posted.
Within hours, Tench called the mother back to relay her son was safe and had been pulled out of class to receive help.
"She was much more comfortable and optimistic about this situation. She was in tears and very thankful for our help," Tench stated. "The mother and I texted back and forth for the next two days and kept me up-to-date with everything. She said her son was calling again and that he felt so much better after talking to someone."
"Staff Sergeant Tench did exactly what he should have by contacting me," Baker said. "Thanks to his positive relationship with the Airman's mother during the recruitment process, she could count on him to help. This event reinforces for me the importance of a positive recruiter, recruit and family relationship. If the relationship is a positive one based on respect, customer service and professionalism, people know they can count on us."
Baker added that the Airman is very likely here today because of Tench and the positive relationship he developed with the family.
The two-time Gold Badge recruiter said he always knew being a Wingman was important and that he tries to be the best one possible; however, "until this moment I never fully grasped how important."
"I now preach being a Wingman to everyone I enlist," Tench said.
Today, the once-distraught Airman has completed technical training and is now conducting Recruiter Assistance Program duties with the recruiter who enlisted him into the Air Force and helped save him.