The Air Force recruited 29,831 new enlisted airmen in fiscal 2018, slightly exceeding its goal of 29,700, the Air Force Recruiting Service said Thursday.
While the Air Force hit its goal, the number of new enlisted recruits was down slightly from the previous year, when 31,001 new airmen signed up, and from fiscal 2016, when the service reported 31,761 new enlisted recruits.
But while the overall number of recruits dropped from previous years, it’s still far higher than fiscal years 2014 and 2015 — in the midst of a devastating drawdown — when the Air Force brought on about 24,000 enlisted recruits each year.
With three straight years of recruiting nearly 30,000 airmen, if not more, the Air Force continues to rebuild after that drawdown. The Air Force is expecting to grow its active-duty end strength from 325,100 to 329,100 in fiscal 2019, as well as add to the Guard and Reserve.
The Air Force is also positioning itself for further big increases to its end strength. Last month, the Air Force unveiled plans to increase its number of operational squadrons by 24 percent by 2030. The service said this could mean an increase of 40,000 active duty, Guard and Reserve airmen, as well as civilians.
AFRS said the service brought on 512 enlisted airmen who had previously served in uniform, or prior-service airmen.
The Air Force also brought on 1,452 officers — 595 active-duty Line of the Air Force officers, and 857 commissioned health professionals or chaplains. In all, the Air Force brought on 31,795 officers and enlisted airmen in 2018.
In 2016, the 33,645 total assessments was the highest total since the Vietnam era, and the Air Force called it “historic.”
The Air Force fared better than the Army, which announced last month that it would miss its 2018 accessions and end strength goals, and fall short by 6,500 new soldiers.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter at Defense News. He previously reported for Military.com, covering the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare. Before that, he covered U.S. Air Force leadership, personnel and operations for Air Force Times.