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NY Air Guard recruiters team up with NY Islanders to promote 106th Rescue Wing

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt Kevin J. Donaldson
  • 106th Rescue Wing

New York Islanders hockey team mascots, Sparky and Nyisles, slid off the ice and onto the fligtline at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base at Westhampton Beach, New York on Sept. 8, 2023, for a closer look at another team, the New York Air Guard’s 106th Rescue Wing.

The National Hockey League team mascots came to wing with a goal of their own – to net some great photos for a feature in the upcoming Islanders yearbook, according to Technical Sgt. Christopher Gee, the 106th’s recruiting flight chief.

The wing recruiting team is working with the New York Islanders, the National Hockey League Team which plays in Elmont, to help spread the word about the Air Guard and the 106th, and help build wing morale, Gee explained.

"By partnering with the New York Islanders, we're not just showcasing our role at the 106th Rescue Wing but amplifying our story to a wider audience. The National Hockey League is a broad canvas, and this synergy elevates our message beyond traditional boundaries,” he said.

The partnership is also about “...igniting a sense of pride within our unit members and introducing potential recruits to the Air National Guard in an impactful way,” Gee added.

Ann Rina, the Islanders executive director for community relations, said the team was happy to work with the 106th recruiters.

“The Islanders are proud to support our friends over at the 106th Rescue Wing. Through this collaboration we are able to connect Islanders fans with their local community heroes and help in their recruiting efforts,” Rina said.

Technical Sgt. Sarah Reiter, a 106th aircrew flight equipment and operations support squadron, said it was exciting to see the hockey team mascots outside of the arena.

"Seeing the Islanders' mascots here on our base feels like two worlds uniting. It's a vivid way to introduce fans to the Air National Guard,” Reiter said.

Reflecting on her journey, Reiter revealed, "I was hesitant before joining, but it turned out to be a pivotal decision in my life. It's about being part of something greater."

Wing recruiters utilize data from the Department of Defense's Joint Advertising, Market Research & Studies (JAMRS) report to analyze potential enlistees' interests in the Air Guard, shaping their recruiting strategies, Gee explained.

The JAMRS initiative is a Department of Defense program that consolidates advertising, market research, and studies to better understand the motivations and interests of potential military recruits.

"We're honing in on specific areas using research and data,” Gee said. “We aim for precision in our recruiting to attract those who are genuinely interested in serving."

It is also easier for people to join the Air Guard since they can use the website to sign up for the Guard, Active Air Force, and Air Force Reserve, Gee said.

In previous collaborations, the NY Islanders have showcased their appreciation for the services of the local military. Notably, they honored members from the 106th Rescue Wing during their Military Appreciation Night in November of 2022.

"I love seeing the collaboration between the Islanders and the 106th Rescue Wing,” Reiter said. “I can't wait to see our ad in the yearbook. I'm confident it's going to be a win-win for everyone."

The 106th Rescue Wing, based at F.S. Gabreski Air National Guard Base in Westhampton Beach, N.Y., operates and maintains the HC-130J Combat King II search and rescue aircraft, and the HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopter. The 106th Rescue Wing is home to a special warfare squadron with pararescuemen and combat rescue officers, specializing in rescue and recovery, and deploys for domestic and overseas operations.