Tales from Recruiting- Multiple Contacts

I was chatting with a guy recently and when he found out I had been a recruiter, he gushed “They really wanted me to join back when I was in high school. I had all the recruiters calling me all the time!”

I didn’t really feel like busting the guy’s bubble, but he was something of a schlub, and the fact is, no recruiter was going to spend more than a few minutes of time on him.

So why did he have recruiters calling him all the time? Well, because that’s what we do…

One of my key duties as an Army recruiter was to build a database on the population I recruited from. Each recruiter has a geographic area that is his territory. As a general rule, these areas are set by the catchment areas for a certain number of high schools. My job was to build a list of every senior in each of the high schools I recruited from. Sometimes, this was pretty easy. The school would give me a list with names, addresses and phone numbers. Other schools were far less willing to grant access to that information. It was not at all unusual for me to spend time in the local library building lists from yearbooks, and guesstimating what the student’s phone numbers might be by looking up last names in the phone book. And every single night, from 6pm to 9pm, I’d sit in the office making cold calls to contact either high school seniors, or recent graduates.

The USAREC, the US Army Recruiting Command had decreed that every high school senior should be contacted once a quarter during their senior year. Similar edicts were in place for the other branches. So, if you have the Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force all trying to get in touch with you four times in one year, well, yeah, it is going to seem like you are getting a lot of calls. And when I called and mom or dad said Johnny just wasn’t interested, that didn’t count as a contact. So I was going to keep calling.

Now, here’s the thing. I didn’t just call up kids and ask them to join the Army. I mean, who would say yes to that? But what I was doing was trying to plant a seed of interest in talking to me. Every recruiter keeps track of EVERY phone call he makes. I could tell you every single time anyone from the Army had dialed Johnny’s phone number, talked to his folks, reached him, talked about the Army, anything. So I had a pretty good idea if a call was likely to lead to any interest. Now, some guys, I knew they were just never going to be a valid prospect for enlistment. But I’d still call them. One, it was my job. Second, I always asked folks if they knew anyone who might be interested. More than one contract came from a referral.

I hated working the phones. It is dull and frustrating. You folks out there that are tired of recruiters calling all the time to talk to your kid? How do you think I felt having to make 150 phone calls a night? Every night.   Most folks just politely said they weren’t interested. Very occasionally, I’d end up having a nice phone call, just chatting away (and folks who know me realize just how odd it is that I would be comfortable just chatting with a stranger over the phone).  Sadly, a lot of folks were just downright rude.

Worst phone calls ever? I was recruiting in Gary, IN, a city with horrible problems with drugs and crime.  More than once, I’d call and find out that the high school senior I was trying to reach had been murdered.

35 thoughts on “Tales from Recruiting- Multiple Contacts”

  1. The tail end of your tale would be a terrible thing to encounter. I didn’t envy Recruiters and their job. Thankless, but needed.

    When I was in Hi Skool, not one recruiter called me. If the Army recruiter had called and told me about Hi Skool to Flight Skool, I’d have bitten hard and I probably would have crashed and burned sooner than I did. It would have chapped my AF Daddy’s behind, but he woulda understood and signed as I was only 17 and he signed for me to go Navy.

  2. I was called by a recruiter several times, and my father took me down to the recruiting office to speak to him personally. He wanted me to appreciate the soldier’s efforts.

    Sometimes I wonder how my life would have turned out had I gone into the Army.

  3. You know I was a real-live walk-in…
    When I was on the Army Drill Team, the recruiters would often request we perform at local high schools. They would give us stacks of their business cards to hand out when we “worked the crowds” after the show. Most of them would wind up in the nearest trash can, though we did answer the students’ questions about the army. Amazing what questions some inner-city kids ask!

    1. You and I were both walk ins. But we ALSO saw the recruiter quite a few times on campus.

      Our high school had an unusual number of students enlist in the Army. Both our classes had somewhere around ten or twelve people enlist in just the Army. In my high schools in IN that were roughly the same size, I’d be happy to get two or three seniors a year.

    2. My time was 1972. The Easter Offensive was still being turned back when I graduated in June ’72. I never saw a recruiter in High School in San Antonio or Gallatin, TN. I think it was the tenor of the times. I son’t remember the schools being off limits in any way, it just wasn’t done for some reason. Perhaps because the draft was still going. I’m not sure.

  4. Yeah, we made it easy for the recruiters. I even got Faith and my brother (not Tom) to join up. How easy is that? Gift-wrapped for the recruiter.

  5. Xbrad and Esli, do you think your recruiter’s high enlistment percentages had more to do with the time he spent on campus? I’m guessing visibility and working on face to face relationships helped build credibility and trust that resulted in those enlistments. Makes perfect sense to me.

    Great post, Xbrad. And thanks again for your efforts today.

    1. I think because we were in a Navy town, and our school had JROTC (albeit, Navy) there was a greater propensity to enlist. I suspect Esli and I had different recruiters, but I’m not certain, as he was a year behind me. I’m not saying his visibility wasn’t a good thing- I tried to spend time in at least one of my schools every day. But the propensity to join is higher in some towns than others.

  6. Hmm. You make a good point about the communities, Xbrad.

    San Antonio Texas might be s a good example. Military town big on military-pride. Ft. Sam Houston Army Base. Had Randolph, Lackland, Kelly, Air Force bases. Camp Bullis. Brooke Army Medical Center and Wilford Hall USAF Medical Center. Also USAA Insurance HQ with its building complexes larger than the Pentagon. Probably leaving something out. Not at all unusual to see men and women in dress uniforms or BDUs shopping for groceries or at their kid’s school functions. Sheesh. Most of the high schools had ROTC and some, I recall, even with Blackwatch Colorguard who would present the colors at sport events.

    All that kinda speaks: Yea, we’re military people and proud of it.

    You are right. That helps recruitment stats too.

  7. Xbrad and Esli, my dad sees Bob Miles occasionally. He still talks about that time period and the large amount of enlistments out of our respective JROTC classes and the school as a whole in all the service branches. Must have been something in the water.
    I remeber seeing recruiters on campus, but not as a daily fixture. I got more phone calls and cards in the mail than I remember face to face meetings. Then again, once I’d enlisted junior year DEP, I was probably scratched off everyone elses lists.

    1. I spoke with Captain Bob a couple weeks ago.

      And our extracurricular training was just boys being boys.

      And I did NOT start that forest fire with a flare. Honest.

      **shoots Jay in the ass with a BB gun**

    2. Or the trip wire attached to a pen flare that Terry R. stuck his face over and kept tugging on the line trying to figure out where it lead to.
      And what the hell was your fixation with shooting my ass, anyways Xbrad?

  8. None of us like the idea, but sooner or later, we need to think about
    replacements for the people on the line. One way or another, either hopefully grow the force through enlistment or ((I HATE THIS)), a variant of the draft, for EVERYBODY, male and female. We can look at the Israeli model of service. They have 2 years for males and 1 year for females, active duty. Then some level of reserve until the age of 45. If you don’t think so, just take a look at the world situation. It’s not going to get any better for a very LONG time. If you are not willing to tell POTUS, from either side, that we do not have the forces to implement foreign policy, then it is time to be quiet. The other option is to find another strategy.

    Just a thought, men and women are different, we all appreciate that fact. So, let’s respect those very same facts, when it comes to the battle space. We all come there with our own strengths, as we laminate them all together, it makes the force exponentially stronger.

    1. I don’t think it’s a false allure. We need to get back to military service as a duty of the citizen.

      I’d certainly keep women out of it though. If you grabbed the guys then you wouldn’t need the chicks anyway.

      There are ways of dealing with the recalcitrant. I saw it done effectively when I was in Germany in the late 60s and in teh Navy, which didn’t draft when I was in. Mandatory service would be good for teh country. No deferments, and no vote if you refused to serve.

  9. Must’ve been all that extracurricular training we did.

    ** brainstorms possible meanings of ‘extracurricular training’ **

    1. It involved trying to blow stuff up and burning stuff down. Sherrif’s deputies were sometimes involved. And Xbrad shooting people in the ass with bb guns.

    2. Hahahah, I’d forgotten about the deputy pulling up to us asking us if we had just fired off a crapload of fireworks…

      Who, us?

    3. There also was the time we ran the ranger ragged at Ft. Casey State Park after the park closed, then he let us go after we gave him a jump start because his battery died while he waited to bust us all at the gate.

  10. I think back to the early 1970s when I was in high school. I went to a Catholic College prep school with a full time JROTC program…not a boarding scholl but everyone was in Cadet grey every day and we had daily inspection, drill, etc. (Imagine highschoolers in 1975 with regulation Army haricuts in 1975!)

    I never recall seeing a recruiter that was not from a service academy or ROTC…obviously we were more a target for the officer track than enlisted but I only recall a few classmates who enlisted. Most of us who went into the military went in through ROTC or a service academy and became officers. I think out of my graduating class of 193 over 60 of us were commissioned in one of the 5 branches.

    My son is 17 and goes to public high school here outside of FT Lee. There are tons of recruiters around but he has not been contacted by phone…maybe in the hallway at school but that is about it.

  11. Brad, as you explain “the false allure of the draft in a separate post.” Please explain to me how we right size our force relative to the demand. This would be established by foreign policy. The only time I would even raise the term, “draft”, means there is something wrong with the force itself, not the people but the policy it self. I look forward to your commentary on how to solve this problem. For me, the draft would be the absolute last move.

    You speak of “The allure of the draft”, but as you do, please tell me, where do we get the troops, if they don’t volunteer?

    Grumpy

    1. Grumpy,
      To me, the problem is not filling the army we have with volunteers. Despite essentially a decade of wartime service, we have been doing just fine with that, even when the economy was booming. The problem is in fielding a military that is the right size for the threats we currently face, as well as those we anticipate facing in the future (which of course is hit-or-miss). We’ve already seen where Congress authorized a temporary increase in endstrength to fight the war and is now currently reducing that endstrength. The population of the country did absorb that increase but with a commensurate qualitative drop, as seen in increased legal and education waivers (i.e. no graduation from HS). Given current fiscal realities, and the fact that personnel costs are the biggest expense, the army is not getting any bigger, any time soon. If it does, pay and benefits will be the first thing cut in order to afford the increased manning. If/when those go, so does much of the draw for volunteers.
      The army is growing more and more technical, and few jobs are appropriate to pulling a guy off the street, giving him a couple months’ training and then he serves for two years ala the draft era. The demands of the army require intelligence, fitness, and a clean record. Sure, you could draft from only that pool, I guess, but I for one, with 22 years of service, have no desire to lead Soldiers that don’t want to be there in the first place. I would prefer to go under-manned than to create distractors for those who did volunteer. I am certainly for some form of required service for young people before they get a lifetime of free bennies from Uncle Sam, but I don’t particularly want them in the army.

  12. Sounds like my kinda fun James. Sorry I missed it.

    Will try to make up for it by being ruthless at paintball, improving my handgun skills, and blow-torching a slightly blackened crust on salmon steaks.

    1. Those are a good start, but you might also consider pulling sheets of corrugated tin off of fences and moving them large distances through the woods at night, or being able to fling home-made explosives into the brush while being questioned by the police. It would also help to have the ability to knock flaming cans of gasoline over with a large branch. (This has to be done in an open area!!!)

    2. You also needed to have a buddy working in a quick-e-mart willing to hide a case or two of spaghetti-o’s, chili con carne and assorted chips on the loading dock for later retrieval (this is your supply system), a surplus store with dirt cheap prices, a copy of “The Anarchist’s Cook Book”, good friends that could build almost anything (one built a detailed replica M-60 in shop class, I turned out circuit boards for a perimiter warning system in electronics class, someone [xbrad?] built a shoulder fired rocket launcher that fired model rockets) and could manage to cumshaw anything that wasn’t nailed down for use in the field. Parents who had no issues with seeing you off to school on Friday morning and not being surprised if you didn’t turn up until curfew on Sunday night helped. Then there was the stuff you planned, but never quite carried out, like digging a big hole in the side of a bank to hide the small, surplus army communications trailer you were going to “liberate” from a defunct junkyard and carry across the cow pastures…

    3. This BadBoy Network of which y’all tout is influencing with whom I wanna partner when the Apocalypse hits. Am convinced your opponents haven’t gotta chance.

    4. Of course, the Anarchist’s Cook Book could get you killed far more easily than it would allow to make a lot of that stuff. It even scares the guy who wrote. I had a copy years ago, and wouldn’t thought of making any of teh explosives it had recipes for.

    5. One of you was there when I bought a couple pounds of black powder, and when you went in to buy fuze 5 minutes later, the clerk asked if we were gonna blow up Deception Pass bride…

  13. That would be me.
    Of course, there was also the time that I went in to buy and they wouldn’t sell anymore. Took my name off my letter jacket, called the sheriff”s dept, and by the time I got home, son of said sheriff (and current sheriff dept member) was at my home to warn me… Greene’s Gun Shop lost out on big sales of 3X black powder that day!

  14. @Esli, Thank you, for your answer. I was in the military, when they had the draft. In fact, even after I enlisted, I still got my Draft Notice. As long as we have the volunteer force, that meets our needs, then I don’t want a draft. It all comes down to that phrase “meets our needs”. This is a much different world than I was in the military, I recognize that fact. If we are going to be at war on three different fronds, we need to be very careful that we don’t burn out our troops and their families. This is one of the reasons that a government shut down would be bad, for any reason. There are times for debate and times for political games, but this is not the time. Sir, thank you for your service to this Great Nation.

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