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Walker named top medical recruiter in Air Guard for second straight year

Col. Barry Gorter (left), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, presents Tech. Sgt. Anthony Walker, officer recruiter for the Kentucky Air National Guard, with the Medicine Man Award at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 23, 2014. Walker won the award, given to the top medical recruiter in the Air National Guard, for the second straight year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

Col. Barry Gorter (left), commander of the 123rd Airlift Wing, presents Tech. Sgt. Anthony Walker, officer recruiter for the Kentucky Air National Guard, with the Medicine Man Award at the Kentucky Air National Guard Base in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 23, 2014. Walker won the award, given to the top medical recruiter in the Air National Guard, for the second straight year. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Phil Speck)

KENTUCKY AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Tech. Sgt. Anthony Walker has been named the top recruiter of medical professionals in the Air National Guard for the second straight year.

Walker, who heads officer recruitment efforts for the Kentucky Air National Guard, received his second consecutive Medicine Man Award from the National Guard Bureau by recruiting more doctors than any other recruiter in the nation.

Walker said he was surprised to receive the honor, which was presented during a recruiting and retention seminar held at Volk Field, Wisconsin, over the summer.

"I was really surprised when they called my name," Walker said. "I thought to myself, 'Did they make a mistake? Were they talking about last year?'"

Walker, who competed against 25 other recruiters for the title, brought in six doctors in 2013. The national average is typically one or two a year, he said.

The process of recruiting a physician can be difficult, noted Walker, who also was named Recruiter of the Year for Region 4. Candidates require approval from the 123rd Medical Group, the 123rd Airlift Wing, Joint Forces Headquarters-Kentucky and the National Guard Bureau. The process involves a lot of paperwork and credentialing, and can take up to five months. Walker, however, has been able to streamline the process to as little as two months.

"You have to be well organized -- attention to detail is a must -- and be able to relate to candidates and tell them about the Air National Guard," he said.

When Walker took over as officer recruiter in 2011, the 123rd Airlift Wing had only one flight surgeon. He quickly recruited Col. Christian Stewart as the state air surgeon and Lt. Col. Donna Stewart as a wing flight surgeon. Walker then worked with Christian Stewart to recruit even more physicians to the wing, including doctors for the 123rd Contingency Response Group and the 123rd Special Tactics Squadron, both of which had never had physicians among their ranks before.

Such success didn't come easy. Walker visited numerous medical schools in Kentucky and Tennessee, and reached out to other units in both the Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard.

"It's about getting our name out there," he said. "I am the ambassador for the Kentucky Air National Guard. It's my job to go out there and say we have positions here, and if you're a doc, we want you as part of our team."

Walker's sales pitch is helped by the wing's reputation for excellence, he added, noting that the wing is one of the most decorated units in the United States Air Force.

"It's nice to have the decorations and the awards -- to show that the Kentucky Air National Guard truly is the premiere unit of the Air National Guard. So this effort is much bigger than me. It's about the organization."

With a shortage of doctors across the Air National Guard, Walker often receives calls from peers asking for assistance or recruiting advice.

"I definitely try to mentor other individuals out there, because you to have to develop a great team. This takes a lot of effort on everybody's part."