Changes in Recruiting

Looks like the Army is making some changes in how it conducts its recruiting operations. (Warning- Link to NY Times)

The Army has begun remaking its recruiting structure, a change it aims to complete by 2015. Donald Herth, chief of advertising and public affairs for the Army’s Columbus Recruiting Battalion, based in Ohio, said the staff and duties of recruiting offices would be consolidated to make better use of resources and bring recruiting “more in line with everyday Army life,” where soldiers are deployed as teams.

In the past, recruiting officers worked alone, identifying prospective soldiers, processing their applications and preparing them for basic training.

Kathleen Welker, a public information officer for the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky., said recruiters failed or succeeded on their own merit.

“But the fact is, even though they are all trained, just by virtue of personality, not everybody is as good at everything,” she said.

Under the new model, recruiters will be deployed as teams from centralized offices that have civilian employees to handle much of the administrative work. A handful of such consolidated centers are up and running. One in Coney Island, in Brooklyn, is scheduled to open this month, and will be staffed by recruiters from three nearby offices that are closing.

I’d love to see more details on how this new approach works. As it is, I’ve got some pretty strong concerns.

While there are a fair number of one or two man recruiting stations, particularly out West, most stations are already 5 or 6 man stations. My personal experience was in a station that typically had 5 Active Duty recruiters, two Reserve recruiters, and a station commander. We covered a the northern half of Lake County, IN, with Gary, East Chicago, Hammond and a slew of smaller towns in our catchment area.

One of the key elements of any success we had as recruiters was that we lived in the community in which we worked. When I spoke to the parents of a prospective soldier, there was every likelihood that I’d shopped at their business, or knew mutual acquaintances or had some mutual link with them in the community. Selling the Army is an exercise in trust. If your community doesn’t trust you, no one will join the Army through you. And the only way to establish that trust is to be known. That’s pretty hard to do if you aren’t there full time.

As for civilian administrative support during the enlistment process, you’d think that handing that phase off would allow recruiters more time to prospect and actively recruit. But as a recruiter, I’d have  been very, very leery of it. Recruiters establish a level of rapport and trust with their prospects. By and large, I liked the people I recruited, and like to think they liked me. More importantly, they trusted me.*  But until that person actually flew out to their initial entry training, the sell was a soft one. I put a lot of effort into recruiting a troop, and I sure didn’t want someone else screwing it up. The only time the prospect was out of my control was when he was sitting down with a counselor at the Military Entrance Processing Station. That was fine. A “two man rule” ensured that nothing hinky was going on. His job was to make sure the enlistment was valid. But he also was dedicated to treating each enlistee well. He got graded on his numbers too, you know!

But a civilian processing paperwork for an enlistment will essentially have no incentive to protect that soft close with an enlistee. And it doesn’t take a whole lot for someone to back out of a verbal commitment to enlist. One bit of carelessness or lack of rapport can mean a lost enlistment. And I’m not sure how the Recruiting Command can overcome this challenge. If anyone has details, I’d sure like to know.

*Sure, everyone likes to say their recruiter lied to them. I’ll buck that trend. Both my recruiters were honest with me. Sure, they tended to paint things in the best possible light, but they didn’t really promise me breakfast in bed during basic training, or any of that crap. And I tried to be very honest with my recruits. After all, the very first thing they did after Basic Training was to come home and tell all their friends what the Army was like. Having the first words out of their mouths “SGT XBrad is lying liar what lies!” was not what I wanted. 

3 thoughts on “Changes in Recruiting”

  1. My recruiter never lied to me either. I’m sure it happened somewhere, but not to me. I can still remember his name was Ricky and he was an E-5, but god help me, I can’t remember the man’s last name.

  2. My Recruiter, a Tanker who fought in The Battle of 73 Easting, never steered me wrong. He did a “Drug Deal” with a Career Counselor who was a friend to get me to the 173d Airborne in Vicenza.

    I started trusting him when after the ASVAB while of doing some paperwork he looked around and told me: “. . . there are two things you NEVER let them make you do. First is graves registry, the second is recruiting.”

    I remembered that when recruiting command tried to DRAFT me in the 101st Airborne, two months prior to deploying overseas. Fought tooth and nail. The CO and BC, who were also from Italy, got involved on my behalf. They knew I still wanted to fight.

    I deployed.

  3. from the perspective of former Recruiting Company Commander, “oh, hell NO! this is NOT gonna work”

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