Reaching out: NCOs serve as Recruiting Command ambassadors
August 1, 2013
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Aug. 1, 2013) -- In an effort to ensure the entire Army has a better understanding of what recruiters do every day in communities across America and attract the right Soldiers to the command, USAREC has embedded recruiters in several division and corps level units. Called division outreach NCOs, the recruiters -- who are used to being ambassadors for the Army in civilian communities across the country -- are now ambassadors for Recruiting Command in operational units across the Army, according to Kim Phillips, deputy G-5 for USAREC.
Started as a pilot program in 2009 with one outreach NCO assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, the program expanded in 2012 to I Corps at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., 4th Infantry Division at Fort Carson, Colo., 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) at Fort Campbell, Ky., and 10th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, N.Y.
This year, additional NCOs are being assigned to 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley, Kan., 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, 82nd Airborne Division and XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C., III Corps at Fort Hood, and the Army Medical Command at Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
In a nutshell, the outreach program is designed to "showcase talent, attract talent and develop relationships," said Phillips. These NCOs will be cultivating relationships and bridging gaps between USAREC and operational units, installations and tenant units, Reserve units and also Cadet Command. More in-depth, the NCOs operate in six key areas; they:
• Serve as USAREC ambassadors and develop closer ties to the operational force,
• Share their recruiting story and inspire NCOs to volunteer for service in USAREC,
• Resolve Soldiers' initial enlistment contract and bonus issues,
• Provide information to and mentor Soldiers selected for recruiting duty,
• Serve as a recruiting subject matter expert to unit and installation leaders where they are assigned, and
• Provide support for the recruiting mission.
Phillips talked the "big picture" with the newly selected outreach NCOs during training here earlier this month.
"The command is making a significant investment in you; you are USAREC in the eyes of all the leaders around you," she said. "It's that important that we cultivate meaningful relationships with the operational force. Everything you do is going to make a difference."
Sharing personal experiences and relevant lessons learned from his more than two years as an outreach NCO at 1st Cav Div, Sgt. 1st Class Jeff White advised the recruiters to embrace the unit they are assigned to -- embrace unit traditions, participate in unit fellowship and team-building activities and blend in: "Don't be the outsider." As one example, the I Corps and 7th Infantry Division Outreach NCO Sgt. 1st Class Aaron Morris and a few recruiters at JBLM completed the grueling Mangudai Warrior Challenge.
In many cases, the support they provide and activities in which they participate will be as individual and varied as the units and installations they support, according to Phillips.
At Fort Carson, incoming Soldiers receive contact information for the 4th ID Outreach NCO Sgt. 1st Class Robert Burns during the reception commander's briefing. Burns said loan repayment program and initial bonus payment issues are the common issues for new Soldiers there, and those issues can typically be resolved with a simple explanation of the processes. Catching those issues when Soldier first inprocess the installation helps them get resolved more quickly than in the past.
Morris, a member of the JBLM Community Connectors Committee, participates in weekly meetings discussing activities on the joint base and surrounding communities to ensure local recruiting units are part of the discussion.
White deployed with the 1st Cav Div to Afghanistan in 2011, and Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Santiago is currently deployed with the 101st Abn Div in Afghanistan where he is educating Soldiers on opportunities in USAREC, as well as serving as Garrison Bagram Billeting NCOIC.
At Fort Drum, Sgt. 1st Class Richard Conerly visits several company areas a week, introducing himself to the commander and first sergeant to explain his role and gain their permission to visit their company areas to have small informal discussions with NCOs about recruiting duty.
"This has proven to be much more effective than I originally anticipated and has been a tremendous networking tool," said Conerly, who also mentors NCOs headed to USAREC to alleviate concerns and misperceptions and give them a basic understanding of recruiting operations before they attend the Army Recruiter Course.
White said division outreach NCOs are under a lot of scrutiny from people who have rigid -- and most often negative -- perceptions of recruiters.
"You are going to say a lot with how you present yourself," said White, the command's first outreach NCO who will transition to Fort Knox later this year to help manage the growing program from the USAREC Headquarters G-1. White said his ability to help Soldiers has been the most rewarding aspect of the outreach assignment, "whether it's helping a new Soldier fix an issue with his or her contract or assisting an NCO advance his or her career through an assignment with Recruiting Command."
He said it's truly been an honor serving in the ranks of America's First Team.
Conerly considers division outreach duty "ground zero in the mission to change hearts and minds as to what recruiting is about, especially in updating the outdated negative perceptions" that persist throughout the operational Army.
"Once you get people past the perception that USAREC is the black hole of the Army, they start to understand how what we do greatly impacts their units and the entire Army. We have a commitment to maintaining the health of the all-volunteer force," White said. "Our role as 79Rs is to find and bring the best and brightest into their formations, and we need the best and brightest NCOs on our team to accomplish that mission."
With six NCOs so far assigned at 1st Cav Div, 4th ID, 10th Mountain, 3rd ID, I Corps and 101st Abn Div, the rest of the outreach NCOs are scheduled to be in place by January 2014.