Recruiting commander expands community relations at bowl game

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jamal Sutter
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs
The Air Force Recruiting Service commander visited Columbus, Ga., Dec. 3 and 4 to show support to the community and share knowledge about the Air Force's career opportunities.

During his stay, Brig. Gen. Balan R. Ayyar attended the 2010 Pioneer Bowl at the A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium where the Fort Valley State University Wildcats faced the St. Augustine's College Falcons. The teams represented the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association and the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, two historically black college and university, or HBCU, conferences.

"This is a fabulous demographic for our Air Force," General Ayyar said. "We're here to demonstrate a broad commitment to reach the best and brightest across America. It's really critical that influencers in every arena appreciate that there are opportunities in the Air Force for these young Americans who are graduating from these schools, and these two conferences are a great segment of the population that we haven't spent a lot of time on in the last few years."

General Ayyar used his time to speak with commissioners, deans and other educators on how the Air Force values education, especially in the realm of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, known as STEM.

Before the game, General Ayyar presented a scholar-athlete scholarship to each participating school, which will go toward their scholarship funds. Tony Reid, an FVSU running back and an electronics engineering technology major, and Joaquin Green, St. Augustine's quarterback and a mathematics engineering major, accepted the checks on the schools' behalf.

Gregory Moore, the SIAC commissioner, said it was great to recognize athletes with STEM majors.

"One of the priorities that General Ayyar indicated was the emphasis on (STEM)," Mr. Moore said. "All of our college presidents share his sense of the importance on emphasizing that."

Mr. Moore also commented on the importance of informing the young, black community about the heritage of African-Americans in the Air Force.

"The Air Force can help us let young folks know just how significant the tradition of service is in our community, and perhaps get more young folks to serve in light of that history and tradition," he said. "One of the schools in our conference is Tuskegee University (in Tuskegee, Ala.), and the history of the Tuskegee Airmen is world-renowned."

General Ayyar said that many attributes instituted in sports also are present within the men and women who wear military uniforms.

"The Air Force believes in high performance teams," he said. "So the same kinds of characteristics on this football field -- the teamwork, the dedication, the sacrifice, the courage -- are the same characteristics that make great Airmen."

Along with General Ayyar were representatives from Headquarters AFRS at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; the 369th Recruiting Group from Lackland AFB, Texas; the 337th RCS from Shaw AFB, S.C.; the 331st RCS from Maxwell AFB, Ala.; and the 336th RCS from Moody AFB, Ga.

Lt. Col. Dennis Tucker, the 336th RCS commander, said he and the members of his unit were excited about the experience at Columbus.

"The men and women of the 336th RCS were thrilled about the opportunity to represent the Air Force at the Pioneer Bowl," he said. "General Ayyar's decision to sponsor this event allowed us to make contacts with university presidents, athletic directors, conference leaders and deans of STEM departments. The Air Force now has in-roads to future events at various HBCU schools."

The Falcons beat the Wildcats 20-9. The win marked the team's first bowl victory and the first Pioneer Bowl victory from a CIAA team since 2004.

The Pioneer Bowl is the first National Collegiate Athletic Association-sanctioned bowl game of the season. In its 12-year history, this was the first time the game was played in Columbus, and although only one team could be crowned winner, General Ayyar left the student athletes from both teams with an idea.

"In some sense, this is about football and competition," the general said. "But their academic achievements and the characteristics they demonstrate on the field are what are going to take these young graduates far."