By Mr. Brian Lepley (USAREC)January 28, 2014
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Jan. 28, 2014) -- Future NCAA and NFL players weren't the only stars at the 2014 U.S. Army All-American Bowl (AAB) the first week of this month.
Senior general officers, the U.S. Army Field Band, the Old Guard Drill Team, Medal of Honor recipients and the Golden Knights were all part of Army Recruiting Command's biggest marketing and outreach event, staged each January in San Antonio.
"As the wars wind down, patriotism is no longer the prime motivator to join the Army," Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet, commanding general of USAREC, said. "With a better economy youth have other options to consider. So we have to find better ways to communicate how Army service helps with paying for a college education, job skills, and personal development that will affect the rest of your life."
The U.S. Army All-American Bowl's outreach impact helps accomplish that, primarily through the player selection tour throughout the fall and with center of influence guests during the week of the game. USAREC hosted 27 COIs at bowl week.
The Golden Knights take a select few of these guests on tandem jumps. All of them tour Fort Sam Houston, meet Soldiers in advanced individual training, and attend workshops with Army luminaries that this year included the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. John Campbell, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler, and Gen. Robert Cone, commanding general of Training and Doctrine Command. These senior Army leaders and other general officers hosted the guests in suites for the game Jan. 4.
"Bowl week is a great public relations and partnership development effort on the part of Army leadership," said Dr. Mickey Burnim, President of Bowie State University in Maryland, a COI for 1st Recruiting Brigade.
He thinks Army leadership is smart to engage in events like the U.S. Army All-American week.
"The Army is an attractive and viable alternative for young people looking for a way to help finance their college education," he said. "It's a great start on a career track that provides lots of flexibility and opportunities."
Dr. Mark Church, superintendent of Franklin County Schools in Rocky Mount, Va., steers young people toward the Army from personal experience. His son and daughter both enlisted after graduating college.
"U.S. Army All-American Bowl week is a great opportunity for community and Army leaders to talk and build relationships," he said. "With educators and recruiters working together, we can reach the right kids."
The personal outreach the Army realizes from AAB began early in the fall of 2013. Each of the 100 players and 125 band musicians had a selection ceremony in their high school. The media interest in these events, and the game itself, creates months of sustained publicity for the U.S. Army brand.
"We pay a lot of money to pull this all together, and it's important to us that the All American Bowl is productive, that we're getting a good value for the money we invest," Batschelet said.
Negative media perceptions about military service (PTSD, personnel cuts, budget sequester) shape public opinion and become obstacles for recruiters. Marketing efforts like the Army All-American Bowl week and national advertising allow the Army to tell its side of the story. The information campaign is critical since such a small population of 17-24 year-olds are eligible to enlist.
"In today's youth population of 17-24 year olds about 75 percent of them are not qualified for weight, for moral issues, or for cognitive/education issues," Batschelet said. "The propensity of these young adults to enlist is also declining.
"These are the factors that point to our desire to provide the most accurate information to a young person and their decision-influencers. We need to overcome their lack of information, their concerns, and their questions."