Peru Recruiter Wins Battalion Station Commander of Month
January 11, 2011
- Station commander describes recruiting as a matter of helping others reach their career goals.
MILWAUKEE - As an Army recruiting station commander, Sgt. 1st Class David Martin has been leading and training noncommissioned officers in one of the hardest jobs in the Army for the past nine years.
"It's hard for many Soldiers to do recruiting because it requires interpersonal skills that can't be taught in a classroom," he said.
Martin is the station commander for Peru, Ill. He currently oversees four recruiters but he's led as many as 10 at one time. He started recruiting in 1998 and became a station commander in 2002.
Having served with four different recruiting battalions, Martin said he's learned to adapt to a variety of social and economic situations. But the fundamentals of recruiting remain the same.
"I believe that a major tenet in recruiting is to truly care about helping the applicant, and this transcends all obstacles brought on by changing the recruiting environment," Martin said.
People know when they are being deceived or truly helped, he said. So he works on earning people's trust.
"I'm known for putting people in the Army that I've spoken with over three years. I go to lunch with them, I fish with them, I work out with them, and when the time comes that they need help they turn to me and ask about the Army," Martin said.
He said he sees recruiting as a means to help individuals help themselves. The key is to find someone who has a career goal, even if that goal is not necessarily related to the Army.
"I then show them how the Army could be one of the quickest ways to reach their goal," Martin said. "I don't try to convince people to join, but present the opportunities and benefits the Army offers."
He mentors his recruiters to think of themselves as career counselors and not as sales people.
"In my experience, if you let people see the Army for what it is, they will more often than not respond positively. That's why I tell my recruiters to be true to the people they encounter and help them to reach their own goals," Martin said.
He also gives them the freedom to walk away from joining the Army.
"When applicants tell me they are ready to join the Army, I say 'go home and think it through, pray about it, and talk to whoever you need to talk to, then come back the next day with your birth certificate and we'll make you part of the team,'" Martin said.
If an applicant says he is ready to join the Army today, then the applicant will want to join the Army tomorrow. Martin said he does not believe in hard sales or closing a contract on the spot.
"I don't want to be in the decision per se. I want [the applicants] and their influencers to make it," he said.
Now that Martin is approaching retirement he said he's focusing more on grooming his team leaders to become station commanders. It's hard for him to let go of the reins, but he respects the learning-from-experience process.
"A lot of it involves putting the team leaders in the position of station commander and trusting them to do the right thing," he said. "And that means allowing them to make mistakes and grow."
In October, the U.S. Army Recruiting Command declared Fiscal Year 2011 "The Year of the Station Commander." The Milwaukee Recruiting Battalion selected Martin as the station commander for the month of December. The battalion recruits with integrity quality young men and women into the Army and Army Reserve from the Upper Peninsula Michigan to Northwestern Illinois.