A little more than a year ago, Tech. Sgt. Luis Davila was assigned to be Enid’s lone Air Force recruiter, to reopen an office that had been shuttered for years.
The office was dusty and filled with cobwebs. Recruiting in northwest Oklahoma was being handled by a recruiter from Wichita, Kan. Suddenly Davila was being tasked with recruiting an area from the Texas panhandle to Interstate 35, from the Kansas border to El Reno.
What a difference a year makes. Today the office is clean and bright, with new paint and carpeting, its walls filled with Air Force memorabilia and inspirational posters, and, on this August afternoon, its furniture filled with young people intent on becoming airmen.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” said Davila. “I want to tell you how proud I’ve been to just be a part of this community. I’m astounded by the dedication of the educators here, the counselors and the teachers. I cover 44 schools, and I see the commitment to their success.”
Davila said the Air Force wouldn’t allow him to release recruiting totals, but said his office has consistently met its goals since it reopened last summer.
“In our first year, I am so proud to say I have developed some of the best young airmen,” he said.
Airmen recruited by Davila have gone into the medical career field, become military police and jet engine mechanics, among others.
“They are going out to do all different aspects of the Air Force mission,” he said. “That’s such a rewarding aspect of my job, is to see what we’ve created. Someone who might not have had good direction, and now they have some incredible goals.”
That success didn’t come quickly. It took time for people to realize the local Air Force recruiting office was again open for business.
“Eventually, they started trickling in,” he said.
The biggest hill Davila had to climb, he said, was disabusing people of the notion that the military was a viable alternative once every other option had failed, the notion that “If nothing else works, I’ll just join the military.”
“Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way,” Davila said. “I can’t speak on the standards of entry for the other branches, but for the Air Force, they’re very difficult.”
He advised young people considering a career in the Air Force to “start preparing when they are a freshman in high school. When I say preparing, I mean academically, physically and, most importantly, morally.”
Many people believe they can fall back on the Air Force after getting into trouble with the law or getting involved with drugs. Not so, said Davila.
“Some certain law enforcement violations are not waiveable,” he said, “they will disqualify you from the Air Force.”
More than once, Davila said, he has had to disappoint a young person whose past mistakes disqualified them from entering the Air Force.
“The hardest part of my job is telling people they can’t join the Air Force,” he said. “I want to give everybody this opportunity, but I can’t. My biggest mission is to get that message out there.”
The young people in Davila’s office on this day are among the eight high school juniors he is mentoring who have committed to joining the Air Force after graduation.
“I develop and mentor them and I inspire them to be successful leaders in the Air Force,” he said. “That motivates me so much.”
These students have been showing up at 7 a.m. for physical fitness training.
“That inspires me when I see that level of dedication,” Davila said. “I know when I was a junior in high school, there was no way I was going to be running with any recruiter.”
The presence of Vance Air Force Base here has been an asset in his recruiting efforts, Davila said.
“Luckily, the Air Force base represents us very well here and a lot of the kids see that,” he said.
One of Davila’s goals when he reopened the Enid office was teaching potential recruits one of the three Air Force core values, service before self. To that end, he made sure recruits became involved in volunteer efforts in the Enid area and elsewhere.
“We’ve had a huge impact on the community,” he said.
Davila’s recruits have volunteered to collect clothing and other items for the victims of May’s deadly tornadoes in Moore, El Reno and the Shawnee area. Every month they help an elderly or disabled person with work around their home or yard.
“Now, when they go to the Air Force, they’re going to do that on the global level, but they’ve gotten that first step here,” Davila said.
Davila has spent a lot of time driving the highways and byways of northwest Oklahoma in the past year. And, while he is trying to broaden his recruits’ horizons, they have helped broaden his, as well.
“I got to bottle-feed a baby calf for the first time in my life,” he said.
The Enid Air Force recruiting office is located at 705 S. Oakwood, No. C7. Office hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday by appointment. Call 234-1981 or 278-1357 for information.