Social Platform Promotes Soldier Networking
March 27, 2013
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- Moving around with the Army can make a Soldier feel they are living a nomadic life -- without any personal attachments that can help keep them grounded to their career and their fellow Soldiers.
In 17 years, Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Goodwin has been assigned to Korea and Germany; Fort McPherson, Fort Gordon and Fort Stewart, Ga.; and two tours to Iraq. In 2005, he changed his military occupational specialty from telecommunications operator/maintainer with responsibility for installing, operating and maintaining manual and automated telecommunications equipment to information technology specialist with responsibility for maintaining, processing and troubleshooting military computer systems and operations.
With all that moving and change in his career, staying in touch with fellow Soldiers and maintaining a lasting connection with them has been challenging. Yet, Goodwin knows keeping those connections can make a big difference when moving to a new assignment, seeking career opportunities and, eventually, transitioning into the civilian work force.
And that's why Goodwin, who is the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the Army Materiel Command's executive computer support team, has joined a new social network aimed at providing military from all service branches a way to connect with each other.
"Everybody uses Facebook in the military, and I do as well and I am part of a couple of Facebook groups," Goodwin said. "But that social network is controlled by Facebook. It's not a military centric network."
In November 2012, Goodwin joined RallyPoint, a free online professional network that empowers military members by giving them control over their careers and by providing them a way to connect with other military members. RallyPoint is available for active duty, National Guard, Reserve and pre-commission personnel. Its website address is http://www.rallypoint.com.
"I've used Facebook for years, and I'm connected to lots of family and friends and also military co-workers in that network," Goodwin said. "It's great. But on that network, I can't separate my personal life from my professional life.
"RallyPoint makes it much easier to maintain a network of military brothers and sisters."
On a social level, RallyPoint allows servicemembers to connect with other servicemembers they know either professionally or personally. But, for Goodwin the true value of RallyPoint is that it builds a servicemember's network of both past and future co-workers and supervisors.
"RallyPoint is for military only and it can be used strictly for business. From a professional Soldier's point of view, that's a bonus," he said.
"RallyPoint provides great networking tools. You can keep in touch with people you've met and with potential future people you are going to know. You can see fellow Soldiers who are in a unit that you will be assigned to in six to eight months. You can see how the military is organized and where military openings are throughout the Army. By using all its features, I can really set myself up for success."
RallyPoint was created by Iraq war veterans who both saw and experienced the need for a military-focused networking platform, one that functions with the military's highly complex and unique structure, credentials, command relationships and language in mind. The war veterans first met in Baghdad in 2008 and then reunited at Harvard Business School in 2011.
Together the two veterans decided to develop a social network that would help servicemembers stay in contact with each other no matter where their careers take them, and to provide a better way of job networking that allows commanders to find the best servicemembers for their teams, and for junior officers and enlisted personnel to have better visibility of career opportunities and assignments.
How a servicemember uses RallyPoint is influenced by where they are in their careers, said RallyPoint co-founder Aaron Kletzing.
"A pre-commissioned cadet who is at West Point might want to connect with other ROTC cadets or with officers in the force who can give them good career advice," Kletzing said.
"Senior officers are actually the most engaged on RallyPoint because they can use it to find the best talent around the Army to join their organization. We have one National Guard senior leader who has used RallyPoint to recruit Soldiers coming off active duty. And those mid-career servicemembers leverage their relationships on RallyPoint to find the next best assignment for themselves."
The network can assist all servicemembers, whether it be a career officer seeking to deepen their network of peers, a graduating cadet looking to make the most of their first assignment, or an enlisted servicemember wanting to secure the best PCS opportunities.
"With RallyPoint, I can communicate with people from past, present and future units I'm associated with," Goodwin said. "AMC has a small military footprint, so coming here it may be hard to find a lot of Soldiers at AMC on RallyPoint. But when you find out you are going to a unit with a larger military footprint, you can visit that unit on RallyPoint and make contact with Soldiers who will be serving in that unit while you are there."
RallyPoint offers a search engine that can help servicemembers make connections both with fellow servicemembers and military units.
For instance, Goodwin connected with the 3rd Infantry Division through RallyPoint. The site also showed him all the subordinate units in the division, and the division's military occupational specialties and Soldier ranks.
"That feature gives me the ability to connect with Soldiers within the 3rd Infantry Division who are of a like mind," Goodwin said.
"But RallyPoint also provides information on the current senior ranking military in all the branches. That is worth it to me because I can be contacted by a commander at the unit where I am PCSing and I can contact my command chain where I am PCSing to make that first initial connection. There really is a lot of potential for mentoring and advising through RallyPoint."
RallyPoint offers servicemembers a visual of the organizations behind the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
"We have built a program that shows every military unit and every location, and their relationship with each other," Kletzing said. "It's the most comprehensive detailed map that exists. When you join, your assignments and your experiences are mapped on top of that program so that all your military relationships are shown on a social graph that connects you with relationships across DoD. That way you can see where all your relationships can take you. It connects you with people and opportunities."
The social network also has a Career Corner feature that lets servicemembers view job availability at each military installation.
"I think that is a really good retention tool because you can see the jobs that you can apply for," Goodwin said. "It will make me think twice before retiring."
The success of RallyPoint will rely on whether servicemembers make the effort to be part of the social network. Each new member creates a profile that includes their rank and promotion date, unit affiliations, professional and individual skill training, and other past experiences. RallyPoint uses that information to help find connections between servicemembers that can build a member's personal network.
In the nearly four months it has been online, RallyPoint has gained 9,400 members, and is adding about 230 members each day. On average, every servicemember who joins invites another 36 servicemembers to join.
"It is growing really well," Kletzing said. "It is growing through word of mouth."
Right now, Goodwin knows of five others at Redstone Arsenal who are members of RallyPoint. One is a prior service DoD civilian while the rest are Soldiers. Eventually, RallyPoint, which has the endorsement of such high-ranking officials as retired Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey, will be made available to DoD civilians without prior military service.
"It is open to all of DoD," Goodwin said. "I have two nephews in the Air Force, and I want them to join so that I can network with them on RallyPoint. I really hope servicemembers join RallyPoint so that we can make it grow."