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Airman gives back through recruiting

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. J.G. Buzanowski
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs
"Your 10-month-old son has cancer."

They were the most devastating words Master Sgt. Dave White had ever heard. But the next words the doctor spoke were filled with hope:

"You and your family are on the next plane out of here."

The year was 1995 and Sergeant White was a senior Airman with the 35th Security Forces Squadron. His son needed an expensive bone marrow transplant and was given less than 15 percent chance of survival. Now Chase White is 13, is on the honor roll, and plays basketball and football -- with much of the thanks to military medical professionals.
And that's when Sergeant White knew what he wanted to do in the Air Force.

"I made up my mind that I was going to bring more nurses, physicians, dentists and other medical folks into the Air Force," Sergeant White said. "My son is alive today because of people like them, so it's the only way I could think of to give back after being given so much. The medical bills would have been in the millions, but the military took care of me and my family."

Sergeant White is a flight chief with the 341st Recruiting Squadron, Bellaire, Texas, just outside of Houston, the largest flight in Air Education and Training Command. Sergeant White supervises 16 recruiters and is responsible for Air Force recruiting across 135,000 square miles, or an area roughly the size of Germany. One of his responsibilities is to lead Air Force efforts to recruit medical professionals.

"I'm doing exactly what I set out to do," Sergeant White said.

But it certainly wasn't an overnight process. Sergeant White was transferred to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, so his son could get the needed treatment. As soon as he could, Sergeant White volunteered for a deployment. He spent the next few months in support of Operation Desert Fox.

And soon after he returned, he spoke with his leadership about becoming a recruiter.

"At first, they didn't want to let me go, we were short-handed and the hours were demanding," Sergeant White said. "But I said to them, 'well if we need more people, then let me go get them.' The squadron was always supportive of us and they let me go to recruiting school."

Sergeant White spent the next three years working his way up through recruiting enlisted Airmen in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. After numerous awards and accolades, including Rookie Recruiter of the Year and NCO of the Year for the 360th Recruiting Group, Sergeant White finally got his chance to recruit officers, specifically, medical professionals.

"He's easily one of my best," said Brig. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service. "Sergeant White is in a very demanding position, flight chiefs can make or break a squadron. But he represents the very best of the core values and his ability to articulate what the Air Force offers is exactly what we look for in a recruiter."

General Vautrinot believes in Sergeant White so much that when she was called to testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee Subcommittee on Personnel Jan. 31, she knew who she wanted there with her.

"General Vautrinot called me and said to clear my schedule," Sergeant White said. "The subcommittee wanted to hear directly from recruiters in the field, so I was happy to represent the Air Force and the recruiting service. I answered their questions and even had the chance to tell them what we needed to make our job more effective. All in all, I was pretty nervous, but it was a fantastic experience."

Sergeant White attributes his success to the support of fellow Airmen early on in his career, a time when he needed that support more than anything else. Since then, he said he wakes up every day looking forward to how he can help make the Air Force a better service.

"I have a great passion for what we do as an Air Force," Sergeant White said. "That's my biggest recruiting tool. I share my experiences with potential Airmen and let them know what we're all about. My hope is that they'll see how much I love the Air Force and they'll learn to love it too."
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