For the first time in Air National Guard history, the service has partnered with a National Football League team to bolster the Air Force Recruiting Service's Total Force recruiting efforts.
As part of the Air Guard's partnership with the Washington Commanders, the component's logo will be featured on practice jerseys worn by the team’s defensive players throughout the 2023 season, helping reach and inspire the next generation of airmen.
"Never before in the history of the ANG’s marketing efforts has the ANG partnered with an NFL team," said Air Force Lt. Col Robert Fore, the Air Guard's director of marketing, Air Force Recruiting Service. "This partnership will put our ANG brand in front of millions of sports fans and will reach future ANG members, prior service, and past ANG members."
The Commanders have a longstanding relationship with the Air Force, with Washington Salute, the franchise's official military appreciation program, dating back to 2009.
According to Chris Bailey, Washington Salute's military program lead, Joint Base Andrews, which is located about 10 miles from the Commanders' stadium, has regularly supported the football team through on-base engagements, visits and gameday initiatives.
"The Washington Commanders are committed to our military community, particularly in the [national capital region], in partnership with the NFL’s year-round Salute to Service initiative," Bailey said.
Per the Commanders’ press release about the partnership, service members will host activities and events at training camp and on game days throughout the season to educate fans about their service branch and identify volunteer and long-term service opportunities.
"The Air National Guard is no longer known as the best-kept secret in the military," Fore said.
According to Master Sgt. Devin Doskey, total force public affairs non-commissioned officer in charge, Headquarters Air Force Recruiting Service, the District of Columbia’s rich military history and the values that the Air Guard and the Commanders share played a role in the partnership selection process.
"We are thrilled that our partnership with the U.S. Air Force will help us reinforce our steadfast commitment to local service members, particularly given our proximity to a community with such a deep military legacy," Bailey said.
By building on shared goals, both organizations aim to maximize their impact on the field and in the communities they serve.
"Most Air National Guard Airmen are individuals who live and serve local to their ANG unit," Fore said. "They embody the Citizen-Airman who serves one weekend a month and returns to their community and family for the rest of the month until called upon."
Besides the Commanders, the Air Guard currently has partnerships with Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball teams, the Ultimate Fighting Championship and Athletes Unlimited.
"This exposure attracts potential recruits and emphasizes the ANG's commitment to service and community engagement, which can positively influence retention and application rates, and lead to a broader pool of qualified candidates and greater interest in ANG career opportunities," Doskey stated.
— By Tech. Sgt. Sarah McClanahan, Air National Guard