Now, this post is targeted at a specific audience, but if you have any questions, please feel free to ask.
The Army Recruiter’s Wife asked me to put some of my thoughts on recruiting duty together as a guest post for her. I’m always happy to share my opinion. Just remember that most free advice is worth what you pay for it.
Understand that I got out of that business about 9 years ago.
A little history- I was an 11M DA selected for recruiting. As it was, I was trying to make up my mind where to go next, Germany, Drill Sergeant, or Recruiter. I knew my tour in Ft. Carson was just about done and that the unit was going to be drawn down. DA made up my mind for me.
I didn’t put a great deal of thought into where I wanted to go. I was (and still am) single, so one place was pretty much as good as another. I didn’t have to worry about schools, hospitals, special needs, or employment. I put three places down on the dream sheet. Seattle Battalion, since I’m originally from the area and still had family there; Atlanta Battalion, as I have a Southern heritage and still have lots of relations there, and Indianapolis Battalion, as that’s where the schoolhouse was then. I enjoyed Indianapolis and the surrounding area. Sure enough, I got Indy
Battalion. What I didn’t count on was getting sent to the Highland Recruiting Station, which covered Gary, Indiana. I thought I was pretty worldly, with tours in Hawaii, Germany and Colorado behind me. Gary was a total culture shock. I’d never spent any time in the Midwest and it was very strange and different. You expect that in places like Hawaii and Germany. It took me a good while to get used to it.
You’ll hear a lot of talk about how tough recruiting is in (insert your market here) and how the guys in some other place have it much easier. Don’t listen to the whining. The way the catchment areas are set up for each recruiter is quite sophisticated and gives each recruiter a large enough pond to fish in, not just in terms of raw bodies, but in terms of propensity to enlist.
One of the challenges that I saw new recruiters families often face was that they had been with the Army long enough to get used to having that support system around. Suddenly, it ain’t there. My company headquarters was 120 miles away, and battalion was 170 miles away. You have to plan ahead for anything needing support. There are also usually only a handful of Army spouses around, also. Getting settled in without that support structure is tough.
For spouses who have had their husband deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan or some other garden spot, you will be surprised just how much they are gone. Sure, they’re home every night. Late at night. There were times that I worked 7am till 9pm on a regular basis. I wasn’t very good company by the end of the day. You will feel cheated that after waiting patiently all that time he was deployed, you are deprived of him once again. There are ways to counter this. Try to set up a lunch date. One of my fellow recruiters met his wife for lunch every Tuesday, come hell or high water. It helped him a lot. Take leave. You won’t get a chance to take a 30 day leave, but working a 7 day in each quarter isn’t that hard. And don’t forget, there are a lot of civilians out there who put in the same hours recruiters do.
Join some type of community organization. It doesn’t really matter what kind, the point is to meet some locals who can then refer you to things like a good doctor, tell you which schools are good, where the best deals are, that sort of thing.
I didn’t enjoy recruiting very much. Part of it was because I’m a fairly introverted person. Going up to a total stranger and starting a conversation is very difficult for me. That’s a real handicap for a recruiter. Still, success in the recruiting business is a numbers game. The more people you talk to, the more likely you are to find someone to join. Every recruiter hates the phone. They will all tell you they do better face to face. Maybe, but every recruiter I knew had generated more contracts by phone contact than any other single means. After a while, you get pretty comfortable on the phone. I hated the phone as much as any other recruiter, but I soon learned it was easier for me to cold call someone than to walk up to them. Often when I did meet someone face to face, they knew who I was through a previous phone call. I’m terrible with names and probably didn’t remember them, but they remembered me, and that was the important thing.
For the most part, I liked my applicants and recruits. There were always “problem children” who were on the fence, or couldn’t stay out of trouble, but that just comes with the territory. Most of the folks I worked with were decent folks, both the applicants and their parents. I knew I was doing something right when I got invitations to dinner. And if I didn’t like the applicant, I kept my mouth shut and tried like hell to not let it show. If someone wants to join the Army, they deserve as much attention from me as anyone else.
Recruiting was a little weird in that I had less supervision than ever before, and yet, more micromanagement. I would stop by the office in the morning, update the station commander on my plan, let him know what I had in store for the day, then head out. I was on the road most of the day. In the afternoons, around 4:30 or 5, I’d be back in the station to start hitting the phones. Sometime between then and the end of the day, I would have to sit down with the station commander and go over exactly what I had done, how many people I’d met, how many calls had I made, had I made any appointments or conducted any appointments and what were the next steps for the applicants I had in the pipeline. As a rule of thumb, I had two to three good actions a day, that was a good effort. By actions, I mean either a good, solid appointment made, or conducted, or some other tangible step taken toward getting an applicant in. If I missed mission the previous month, or it looked like I wouldn’t make it that month, I’d probably end up discussing my work and my plan with the First Sergeant as well as the Station Commander. That seems like micromanagement, and is rarely comfortable. Most of the time, though, they were pretty helpful.
A.R.W asked if her husband could continue his volunteer work. Specifically, he enjoyed runs, walkathons, and other sporting events supporting a favorite charity. By all means, continue to support them. Just make sure you wear your Army PT uniform! And don’t forget to pass out business cards. Remember, everything you and your recruiter do, is recruiting. I wore my Class A’s to church. If someone asked about it, I answered. Dinner with the girlfriend? Ask the waiter if he wanted a real job! It takes a while to learn to balance work and life, but it can be done.
Each recruiting battalion has a specialist to help with healthcare. Get their name and number and make friends with them. They can be a great asset in dealing with TriCare. Especially for families in the special needs categories. Most doctors in the real world don’t deal with TriCare much, so it is very handy to have a guide and advocate ready to walk you and them through the system.
Recruiting duty is not the nightmare it is painted to be. It is tough, hard work, but if it were impossible, no one would do it. As it stands, quite a few folks decide they like it and convert to 79R. Or at least they look back on it fondly when they return to the “real Army.” Let me wish you good luck. Go Army.