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From active duty to Missouri Air National Guard, a maintainer's road to recruiting

131st Bomb Wing, Missouri Air National Guard production recruiter Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swanson stands proudly before an image of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. “My goal is to try to spread the word because it’s not like we’re really selling anything. We’re just educating, because it really does sell itself,” said Swanson. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Halley Burgess/Released)

131st Bomb Wing, Missouri Air National Guard production recruiter Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swanson stands proudly before an image of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. “My goal is to try to spread the word because it’s not like we’re really selling anything. We’re just educating, because it really does sell itself,” said Swanson. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Airman Halley Burgess/Released)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- After nine years in the active duty Air Force, Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swanson recently joined the Missouri Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing as a production recruiter here.

Swanson, originally from Rock Falls, Illinois, enlisted in the United States Air Force in February 2001. After one year out of high school, Swanson was ready to do something meaningful and see the world; or at best, more of the U.S. After basic training and technical school, Swanson worked as part of the 20th Maintenance Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

After a nine-year active duty commitment, Swanson realized it was time to do something new, but was reluctant to leave the military altogether. While working at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, he concluded it was time to move closer to home. In 2010, he transitioned to the Missouri Air National Guard as a full-time technician with the 131st Maintenance Squadron.

Three years later, the time for change came again and Swanson left maintenance to become a full-time recruiter.

"Since coming into recruiting, I'm learning more about other sections and other career fields that are available to the 131st, which has really helped me out personally in understanding the unit better," said Swanson.

Swanson notes how different working in recruiting is from his previous maintenance job. He says the change of pace is enjoyable.

Military members are all familiar with recruiters, but not everyone really understands what all they do.

"We seek out the highest-qualified individuals to meet the specific mission needs of the 131st Bomb Wing, and in return they receive money, education, training and satisfaction that goes along with being part of our prestigious unit," explains Master Sgt. Melissa Lakin, 131st Bomb Wing recruiting office supervisor.

According to Lakin, recruiters need to have a high level of integrity and a passion for the Air National Guard, while also believing in the mission and the people. All traits are found in Swanson, she says, who is a top-notch sergeant willing to learn, learns quickly, and is a people person who loves the guard.

In the future, Swanson plans to finish his degree in Management and Human Resources through Park University courses offered at Whiteman. He also wants to get the word of the Air National Guard out to more people.

"I want to explain what we do here as Air National Guard because not a lot of folks outside of the local area are familiar with the Air National Guard," Swanson remarked. "My goal is to try to spread the word because it's not like we're really selling anything. We're just educating, because it really does sell itself."