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Recruiter's professional relationship with Airman's family saves a life

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) --

When an out of the ordinary text came into his phone Oct. 30, Staff Sgt. James Tench immediately called the sender. This text, unlike the hundreds of others he receives, 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, was reaching out to his 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 he 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.

Tench said 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 said.

Tench also said that the mother was worried this would cause harm to her son's career. He told her that Air Force’s first priority is his life and well-being.

He then called Master Sgt. George Baker, the 313th Recruiting Squadron first sergeant.

"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, Baker urged his 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.

"Staff Sgt. 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."

After the Airman was pulled out of the class and received help, Tench was able to call back the mother back to relay her son was safe.

"She was much more comfortable and optimistic about this situation. She was in tears and very thankful for our help," Tench said. "The mother and I texted back and forth for the next two days and she 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."

In the end, the once-distraught Airman completed his technical training and also recently completed Recruiter Assistance Program duties with the recruiter who helped save him.

Tench said he always knew being a wingman was important and that he tries to be the best one possible; however, until this moment he never fully grasped how important.

"I now preach being a wingman to everyone I enlist," Tench said.

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