Standing tall in their crisp uniforms with impeccable mannerism; it’s impossible not to notice Army Recruiters at any college career fair that you and I have ever attended. Aggressive, agile and proactive; these recruiters do an extraordinary job year after year of recruiting soldiers in astounding numbers for the US Army. Even though their job profile is very similar to ours; there is very little that we know about these fine men and women. With a mission to know about the what, how, where, when about the job of military recruiters, I spoke with Joy Jacob in Advertising and Public Affairs at the Battalion level in Michigan. Going down the chain of command I got an opportunity to speak with two incredibly smart and well trained recruiters at the Sergeant level; Sgt. Stuckey and Sgt. Schoner, both career military professionals trained by USAREC to be Army Recruiters. This article is an attempt to sketch a profile of an Army Recruiter and their job; information for which has been derived from USAREC’s website (www.usarec.army.mil), US Army Recruiting and Retention School’s website (www.rrs.army.mil) and from my discussion with these recruiters.
Introduction to the Command Structure
The U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) with its headquarters at Ft. Knox, KY, manages the recruiting efforts of the world’s strongest, most sophisticated and best trained workforce – The US Army. To bring quality young men and women into the Army - people who will complete their tours of duty and make a contribution to the Nation's defense - is the objective of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Its mission: "Providing the Strength" for America's Army. USAREC also provides command, control and staff support to the recruiting force. The scope and size of its operations is so enormous that no entity in the corporate world comes even close to the manpower, planning and targets that drive USAREC. It’s a massive recruiting machine that conducts recruiting operations throughout United States, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa; and at U.S. facilities in Germany and Asia. To give you an idea, USAREC has about 13,000 civilian and military personnel serving in roles as diverse as personnel, administration, resource management, safety, market research and analysis, public relations and recruiting operations. There are about 8,800 recruiters who work out of more than 1,600 recruiting stations across the US and overseas. The subordinate structure of USAREC includes six recruiting brigades and the Special Missions Brigade; 38 Battalions and 245 companies that provide tactical control of the recruiting stations. The Medical Recruiting Brigade consists of five Medical Recruiting Battalions across the Command. And last but not least, USAREC’s state of the art recruiting website at www.goarmy.com is its cyber initiative with Sgt. Star as the face of cyber recruiters online. According to an article by Sgt. Hudson dated September 29, 2008 (http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/09/29/12798-cyber-recruiting-instant-expert/) there are more than 40 cyber recruiters who work out of Ft. Knox, KY and work between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight to help anyone with questions concerning the Army.
Army Recruiter - Background & Reporting Structure
A recruiter is the basic unit of the USAREC and without a recruiter; USAREC cannot achieve its basic mission i.e. providing the strength. All recruiters selected for the job have records of proven ability, specialty and potential, and each represents the finest traditions of the Army and military service. These are men and women who specialize in various fields within the Army but are selected and trained for the special mission of serving as Army Recruiters. For example, someone from the ranks of Military Police or Infantry could be selected and trained to serve as recruiter. In terms of rank, these recruiters are E-4 promotable (Specialist/SPC) through E-7 (Sergeant First Class /SFC). All recruiters are required to pass a criminal and credit check and attain a security clearance from the department of defense. They can also not be flagged or have any unfavorable remark against them to be eligible for the recruiting duty. Recruiters are generally Sergeants who report to a station commander; generally a Sergeant First Class (E-7), who then reports to the Company First Sergeant (E- 8) at the company level.
Enlisted men and women are generally handpicked for Recruiting duty i.e. Department of Army (DA) selected or are volunteers who send in their applications up the chain of command to be considered as recruiters. Candidates who apply for the Army Recruiter’s job must meet eligibility conditions listed in about 23 points on USAREC’s website. Some of the conditions are - meeting a minimum physical profile (PULHES - military acronym for the Military Physical Profile Serial System) standard of 132221, not have any bankruptcy in the last 5 years, not be a single parent, must have a valid driver’s license and no reckless driving record and must fall within the age criteria etc. While, some of the eligibility conditions could be waived depending on the candidate background and experience; Volunteers or DA Selected candidates are processed differently according to a well defined procedure. Once selected, the candidates are sent to the Recruiting and Retention School for the Army Recruiter Course (ARC) at Ft. Jackson, SC.
Retention and Recruiting School
Called as the “Schoolhouse” by its students and graduates, all army recruiters get their basic recruiters training at the Recruiting and Retention School at Ft. Jackson, SC. ARC is a 6 week program designed to provide training in the principles of leadership, eligibility, technology systems, interpersonal communications, Army programs, time management, prospecting, and interviewing. This 6 week qualification course is given in three phases - Academic, Performance and Certification and a candidate must pass both the academic and performance hurdles to pass. In addition, each candidate is required to construct a personal scrapbook that eventually serves as a tool in telling his or her "Personal Army Story". Out of these 6 weeks, the first 2 weeks are focused on theoretical aspects and rest is focused extensively on learning presentation, interviewing and counseling skills. Candidates are also called in for impromptu speeches and presentations from time to time. The “Schoolhouse” churns out recruiting professionals in uniform all year long and each class size is about 100 candidates.
As per the recruiters I have spoken to and the manuals that I have come across, the job of an Army recruiter is to uncover goals and aspirations of the applicant and to present the features and benefits the Army can provide to achieve those goals. They say military recruiting is less of selling and more of counseling; its science and an art. Superficially, their job seems very similar to ours. But upon looking at it closely, I found that it’s much more regimented and structured than any of us can imagine. During the course of recruitment; the recruiter takes the role of a planner, leader, communicator, public relation expert, counselor and a market expert. They follow a very well written (eighty or more pages) recruiting manual that not only talks about in detail what times to call candidates, the importance of always asking for referrals, canvassing the geographical areas, collecting data from the community but also gives ideas, pitfalls and procedures that are important in achieving the recruiting goals.
An Army recruiter’s world is network centric that consists of external network and internal networks where connection to USAREC’s integrated information systems, staff, recruiting units, future soldiers, and even other recruiters are a part of the internal network while the community, businesses, schools, clubs, and other outside organizations are a part of the external network. Recruiters are required to make effective use of both these network structures to their advantage. In addition to attractive incentives and sign-on bonuses their arsenal also includes skills in prospecting, interviewing and counseling.
Sourcing in our world is prospecting in theirs. Their definition of prospecting is sharing the Army message with everyone in the community by every possible means. Unlike ours, their prospecting is classified into 4 categories (P1 through P4), where P1 is telephone prospecting, P2 is referrals, P3 is face-to-face prospecting and P4 is the use of internet/email to prospect. Recruiters then assign specific times to each of these prospecting methods in their daily schedules and evaluate how useful each prospecting method was during the day on a daily basis. P2 i.e. asking for referral is a tool that’s widespread and universal in their world – asking for a referral goes with any call or meeting. Counseling skills like Paraphrasing, Active Listening, Body language interpretation and Reflective listening are important ingredients of an interview process with the candidate. By being a subject matter expert on the options, programs, and benefits of Regular Army (RA) or Army Reserve (AR) the recruiter basically tries to meet a prospect’s specific goals. In addition to telling the prospect their own “Army Story”, they also talk about the following areas by using the word “SOLDIER” when discussing Army opportunities: • Service to country (Tradition, history, Army values); Occupational and career enhancement (Practical work experience and marketable job skill, college education, emerging technology); Leadership (Management development); Diversity (Cultural -travel and organizational); Income (Financial stability and security); Excitement (Challenge, adventure, recreation) and Respect (Pride of service, public opinion, sense of self-worth).
Recruitment Process: After the initial interview is done, the applicant is tested on ASVAB that tests his/her ability in four areas: arithmetic reasoning, word knowledge, and paragraph comprehension and mathematics knowledge. Upon passing ASVAB, the candidate is sent to the MEP Station (Military Entrance Processing) for physical. This is a well coordinate effort between the recruiter, applicant and MEPS. The information that is gathered during the interview process is electronically submitted to the MEPS where the applicant goes through a comprehensive medical examination to determine their physical qualifications. After it is determined that the applicant is mentally and physically qualified, the Army guidance counselor matches their abilities and desires with needs of the Army. An Oath of Enlistment is given to the applicant once the guidance counselor and the applicant agrees on an enlistment program. Once tests are done, recruiters have one week to build the enlistment packet and finally recruiter stays in contact with the enlistee until he/she leaves for the basic training.
Target Group: Army recruiters’ target group includes men and women between the ages of 18-41 years. Applicants need to be medically fit - both mentally and physically. They should also clear police check, credit checks, and have an ASVAB score of 50 or more.
Channels of Recruitment:
Army recruiters heavily rely on their internal and external environments to source candidates. They tap into the High Schools, Colleges, Universities and community events to identify their prospects. Any candidate, who interacts with a cyber recruiter by visiting Army’s website, is referred to a local recruiter; who then interviews, tests and finally prepares the enlistment packet for the candidate. Army also operates about 1,600 recruiting stations across the country and overseas that welcome walk-in candidates for any questions about the service.
There are three major challenges that these recruiters pointed out during our discussion:
- Competition within the branches of military: When it comes to recruiting, the Army recruiters face a fierce competition from other branches of the military. The Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps essentially target the same pool of candidates as the Army does. We, in the civilian world also compete on a regular basis with the Army and other branches of the Military for qualified candidates. According to the website of the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness (http://www.defenselink.mil/prhome/docs/NumericGoalsAchievementSince80.pdf) the Army had a target of 80,000, the Navy - 39,000, Marine Corps - 37,967 and the Air Force had an objective of 27,800 enlistees in the year 2008.
- Tests and ASVAB: Many candidates who show an interest to enlist are unable to pass the ASVAB or Medical or the background checks test. This has come across a major challenge because an applicant’s inability to pass any one of tests means rejection.
- Support Groups: Supports groups i.e. family and friends play a very important role in decision making. Candidates who enlist generally have a strong support of family and friends. But in many other cases, the support group also plays a role in the decision otherwise.
Goals, Performance Evaluation, Training and Career
Recruiting Stations operate with a strike team or a task force approach in the field that we often lack in the corporate space. A larger recruiting team at a station is generally divided smaller teams that have their own targets within their geographical territory. Each recruiter then has his or her own defined target.
Performance is evaluated on an ongoing basis and all recruiters are trained and retrained on a regular basis. In addition to the Physical Training, these recruiters train once a week at their recruiting station, once a month at the Company level and attend an annual training as well. Military’s love for training and retraining personnel is reflected in the way these recruiters operate, achieve and present themselves.
Recruiting duty is a 3 year term but the recruiter who performs well and wants to work as a recruiter for the rest of his/her military career can request his/her MOS (Military occupation specialty) changed to a recruiter’s job.
Traits of an Army Recruiter:
I got several responses when I asked these recruiters about the traits of an Army Recruiter. Top on the list were Integrity, Confidence and Motivation which I could clearly see and feel while talking to them. Next on the list were; being detail oriented, organized, procedural followed by emphasis on planning, analysis, reports, goals and time management.
In conclusion, clearly defined and brilliantly designed recruiting procedures and programs are the backbone of US Military’s successful recruiting. I have also come to strongly believe that successful recruiters are extremely meticulous and procedural. After an hour of discussion with these recruiters, I walked away with greater admiration for our counterparts in uniform.