Recruiting adapts to build tomorrow's Army
May 16, 2012
While the Army is undergoing its transformation, Recruiting Command is adapting as well -- seeking
new, quality Soldiers to fill the ranks while simultaneously transforming its operations to small-unit recruiting in which recruiters work as a team to accomplish
the same goals.
Last year, 9,200 NCOs recruited almost 82,000 young men and women to serve in the Army's active and reserve components. Seven out of every 10 of those NCOs were Department of the Army-selected, meaning they were "volun-told" to go on recruiting detail.
First Sgt. Latosha Bowens was DA-selected 12 years ago to serve an initial three-year assignment with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Since then, she changed her primary military occupational specialty to 79R recruiter and has served in a variety of capacities within Recruiting Command, including station commander, company trainer, instructor and at USAREC's headquarters at Fort Knox, Ky.
"NCOs, no matter what, are the backbone of the Army, and within USAREC, this is readily apparent because the success or failure of our mission lies directly on our shoulders," Bowens said. "We are the strength of our Army, and our nation rests on what we do every day."
Recruiting stations are staffed entirely by NCOs. Though a captain is the recruiting company's commander and some junior enlisted Soldiers are detailed to serve as hometown recruiters, NCOs are the ones who provide stability and conduct the majority of USAREC's operations.
The NCOs of USAREC work together to accomplish the recruiting mission, bring in a more professional force and represent the Army in their local communities, Bowens said. While some choose to stay in recruiting and change their MOSs, the others will return to line units more prepared, more educated and with greater leadership potential.
Missions and team work
One of the common misperceptions about recruiting detail is that recruiters will be faced with tough new enlistment quotas and will be expected to accomplish those missions alone. Sgt. 1st Class Jeff White, a recruiter with the 1st Cavalry Division, said USAREC has become more collaborative in the past three years.
"There's no individual recruiting mission anymore," White said. "It goes down to the station level, and that's it. The station works as a team to make that mission, so that takes some of the pressure off the individual recruiters, especially the brand new recruiters."
Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Moore, command sergeant major of USAREC, said the command successfully accomplished its mission when it had individual goals. But the command group wanted to change its operations to be more like how the rest of the Army operates, he said.
"We wanted to look at our practices to see how we could do things better and more efficiently," Moore said. "At the same time, the idea was to create an environment -- to create an organization -- that better develops its leaders, where people want to serve, and not be forced to detail or serve. In order to do that, we had to look at some of our processes and figure out why people didn't want to come to Recruiting Command other than that it was 'hard.'
"[People] would come from the Army -- our Army -- where the day you got to basic training, you operated in small units, in teams; you had battle buddies, squads and platoons. When you came to United States Army Recruiting Command, you had to do everything, and you had to do everything on your own. Everyone had to be able to do every critical task of recruiting and had to perform it above standard. It really didn't make sense."
There are six brigades within Recruiting Command, and each has six to eight battalions. Those battalions have about five companies within them. USAREC units are designated based on the regions where they recruit.
Small-unit recruiting focuses on teamwork by assigning each individual a "working cell" within the recruiting station's team.
The recruiter support cell conducts prospecting activities -- making phone calls, sending emails and processing qualified applicants who agree to enlist in the Army.
The engagement cell conducts the official Army entrance interview, tells the Army story to applicants and works mostly away from the recruiting center as it networks with potential contacts at high schools and colleges.
The "future Soldier leader," an NCO who directs future recruits, prepares applicants who have taken the enlistment oath and are awaiting approval or those who are in the delayed-entry program for basic training.
"Instead of being a top-down-driven process, small-unit recruiting empowers those first-line supervisors to employ every member of their team according to their strengths in support of the overall station's mission," Moore said. "It's very similar to what an operational Army unit does. Small-unit leaders know the skills, knowledge and attributes of their folks. Each leader can organize their team to get after the mission based on their individual strengths while simultaneously identifying their weaknesses and developing individual training programs to enhance those areas. Ultimately, they can function in any area or any critical tasks of recruiting, but we try to get them in where their best skills are initially. This is completely different from what we've done in the past. We exploit those natural abilities of the NCO while developing those other skills that they may not have completely mastered so they can perform them to standard at some point during their three-year tour."
Sgt. 1st Class Chad Momerak volunteered and was assigned to Recruiting Command in July 2009. A reservist on active duty, he was looking for a change of pace from his previous assignment in Fargo, N.D., and volunteered to be a recruiter in St. George, Utah. He said the mission of finding qualified men and women who want to serve in the Army is challenging, but it's a challenge that all NCOs can strive to overcome.
"USAREC has one of the biggest missions in the Army as a whole," Momerak said. "Our job ultimately is to find quality men and women to join the Army -- to put people in boots. Without USAREC, there would be no Army; we're an all-volunteer force."
USAREC is also working to consolidate its recruiting efforts where it makes sense. USAREC leaders determine which stations will relocate or merge with bigger ones based on the Army's Program Assessment and Evaluation process and human intelligence analysis, Moore said. By consolidating these centers, NCOs have the opportunity to work as a team of eight to 15 NCOs, where previously they would've worked a solo operation.
The day-to-day operations are varied -- networking with potential future Soldiers, attending community events and representing the Army.
NCOs accomplish these tasks through volunteer work, school outreach and coordination with influential people in the community to tell the Army story.
One of the more challenging missions in recent history was recruiting during the surge of U.S. troops in Iraq in 2005, White said.
"While Soldiers were fighting the ground war in Iraq, USAREC was conducting its own surge operations back in the states," White said. "Those were rough times in Recruiting Command; we were working some long hours. But never before in history has the Army ever fought two major wars without the use of a draft. The recruiters who helped provide the strength for those years, I think, deserve as much credit for what the Army achieved as those Soldiers whom they recruited to join the fight."
NCOs within Recruiting Command experience leadership challenges as they pave the way for future Soldiers.
"NCOs in USAREC really are kind of the same as they are in the regular Army," White said. "NCOs are the backbone of Recruiting Command. They're the ones putting people in the Army. They are the subject-matter experts. Officers still play a vital role in it, but it's the NCOs who fill the ranks."
NCOs must rise to these leadership challenges, Momerak said, and provide realistic expectations to future Soldiers because they are the first Army experience those new Soldiers are going to have.
"NCOs play the most critical role; we're where the rubber meets the road," Momerak said. "There are no privates or specialists in Recruiting Command; it's all noncommissioned officers. It's our job from the get-go to be the face of the Army, to work directly with civilians, get them to join the Army and help them through that process. We recruit, mentor, counsel and lead future Soldiers prior to them ever meeting their first drill sergeant."
USAREC NCOs are often the only face of the Army in the communities they serve. That means they must act as professionals every time they're in public, Momerak said.
"There's a big burden on USAREC to hold up to the high standards of the Army and the Army Values," Momerak said. "[We have to] be the face of the Army to the community members because that commercial that they see every once in a while on TV is nothing compared to actually watching a Soldier in uniform talk to a group of high school seniors or to a city councilman, discussing the pros of being in the military."
Their impact is not only on the future Soldiers they recruit, but also on the influential people they network with.
"People will join the Army because of who you are in the community," Bowens said. "Within Recruiting Command, we are very diverse. We're all coming from different areas, and we're working as a team in the community. That's why most of the people join -- because of who we are."
USAREC also brings a variety of resources to local communities to showcase the Army.
It works with the Accessions Support Brigade, which oversees the Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, the Army Marksmanship Unit and the Drill Sergeant Exhibitor Program, to bring these programs to the communities USAREC serves. Though the Accessions Support Brigade assists with recruiting efforts, it is up to local recruiting NCOs to tie all of these Army programs together to tell their communities the Army story.
"Nothing beats an American Soldier with real-life experience who looks good, who's motivated out on the streets of America," Moore said. "All those other assets -- the All-American Bowl, the [National Hot Rod Association show], we have all those events. But nothing beats a sharp-looking, highly motivated American Soldier who can influence the American people."
Lessons to bring back to line units
All recruiting NCOs serve an initial tour of three years, which starts once they reach their station, not once they start the recruiter training course. At the end of their tours, if they no longer want to serve in USAREC, they are sent to a conventional Army unit. The lessons they learn in Recruiting Command, though, allow them to be better leaders, motivators and NCOs, White said.
"In the conventional Army, you have the benefit of rank. So even if I fail to inspire or motivate a Soldier, if I outrank him, he's going to do it," White said. "In Recruiting Command, you don't have that. You can tell a 17-year-old high school student that he needs to be in your office by 1700 hours. But first of all, he probably doesn't know what '1700 hours' is, and second of all, if you don't provide him some reason to be there, he's not going to show up. You've got to learn to truly inspire and motivate people, which makes for a better leader when you leave Recruiting Command."
One of the most valuable experiences for NCOs is learning about the Army and what programs and MOSs it offers, Momerak said.
"I've been in the Army for 13 years now, and I've learned more about the Army in the 2½ years I've been in Recruiting Command than my years combined before I came to Recruiting Command," Momerak said. "I had the opportunity to work with NCOs of all different branches, which is something you don't do (in an operational unit). I was an engineer before I came here to Recruiting Command, and I mostly spent my time working with other engineers. Now I'm able to work with and learn from combat arms, band members, medical people. It's interesting to see what the rest of the Army is like and learn from those NCOs."
Recruiting individuals to serve in the Army also helps NCOs hone their counseling skills, which are easily transferable once they return to their primary MOSs, Moore said.
"The process by which we go about recruiting an individual into the Army is extremely valuable to the competencies of an NCO," Moore said. "As an example, the Army interview is counseling done correctly in accordance with FM 6-22. It's essentially the ability to assess the issue, to provide solutions, to develop the goals and desires of a person, and to develop solutions and present opportunities. When you start telling NCOs that, they say, 'This does have value.'"
"They can't rely on 'Do it because I said so.' Now they provide purpose, directions and motivation through the development they've gotten out here in Recruiting Command,"
Moore said. "That young private is going to go attack that mission with a much different intent because now they understand the why."
Staying on recruiting detail
Some NCOs decide to make 79R their primary MOS. Those NCOs have the opportunity to serve the Army in a variety of positions, including training new 79Rs at the Soldier Support Institute's Recruiting and Retention School at Fort Jackson, S.C., and serving at USAREC headquarters.
"For those who aspire to convert and stay here, they go through a lengthy assessment and counseling, and a recommendation for a full conversion to 79R," Moore said. "The majority of that is based on their leadership ability, not on how many people they've put in the Army."
White, previously a 19K armored crewman, chose to stay in Recruiting Command because he believed it would provide him with more opportunities in the Army. He now serves as the 1st Cavalry Division's recruiter outreach NCO. To the Soldiers of the 1st Cav, he is USAREC and is currently deployed to Afghanistan with them. While downrange, he provides briefings, offers NCO professional development, and tells Soldiers tapped to be recruiters about what they can expect once they get to Fort Jackson.
"When I looked long-term, finishing my career in Recruiting Command was going to give me a more marketable skill set than being a tank commander would have," White said. "But what influenced my decision the most was, as a recruiter, I was able to help others realize their goals and dreams in life.
"That's what I like most about Recruiting Command. You get to take that high school senior, or recent high school grad, or maybe a college student who is going through life and going through the motions and doesn't have any real direction and help them achieve whatever their long-term or short-term goals are."
Recruiting is often compared with drill-sergeant duty because both are special assignments that offer NCOs similar opportunities during their military career. Though, White said, more rumors are circulated about the horrors of recruiting.
"Recruiting Command is kind of a victim of its own success," White said. "If somebody goes out on drill-sergeant status, they're going to go out for 24 months. They can apply for a third year and do 36 months, but all of them are going to go back to the conventional Army when they're done. So people that loved it, people that hated it, people that were indifferent to it, they all come back to the conventional Army, and you hear about all of it.
"With Recruiting Command, you do 36 months of being a detailed recruiter. But you have the option -- assuming you were successful and enjoyed recruiting -- to re-class and change your MOS to stay in recruiting. Unfortunately, the conventional Army doesn't always hear about the people who really liked recruiting, because we stayed in recruiting."
Regardless of whether NCOs stay in USAREC or return to the rest of the Army after their three-year obligation, they will be more prepared to meet the challenges ahead after serving in Recruiting Command, Bowens said.
"USAREC allows us to be better leaders, to be able to be very diverse, to be articulate, to tell our story," Bowens said. "We lead from the front, lead by example, extend our influence beyond the chain of command. But most importantly, we are the epitome of the Army and of the Noncommissioned Officer Corps."