By "Recruiting Journal" associate editorJanuary 24, 2007
FORT KNOX, Ky. (Army News Service, Jan. 24, 2007) - In October, Sgt. Jason Maxwell wasn't too sure about being selected by Department of the Army for recruiting duty. But now that he's served in the Special Recruiter Assistance Program, he's feeling better about it.
Though others may not necessarily intend to be a recruiter, Soldiers can learn a lot about the Army while working as an SRAP. Other benefits include the chance for Soldiers to work in their hometowns and the $2,000 referral bonus.
"There's monetary incentive, but it's more than that," said Juanita Randle, SRAP manager at Headquarters, U.S. Army Recruiting Command. "A lot of the Soldiers that I put out there did not know about the bonus. They were excited, the ones I talked to, excited about the opportunity to go home and tell their war stories. That's what excited them most of all."
SRAP, which began in 2004, was conceived as a way to bring active-duty veterans of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom back to their hometowns and work with local recruiters, telling their "war stories." It is different from the Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program in that SRAP participants are all OEF or OIF veterans, and the program is funded TDY. HRAP participants serve on permissive TDY.
Erick Hoversholm, programs branch chief in USAREC G3, said SRAP participants bring their real-world war experiences to prospects, lending credibility to what a recruiter says.
"One of the big advantages you've got over a video or anything, you've got someone right there," he said. "(SRAP participants) can bring pictures; something to share brings the stress down and raises the recruiter's credibility at the same time."
Hearing the Army story from a Soldier whose job isn't recruiting makes a difference, especially when that Soldier is from the local area.
"When you have someone who can share the Army story and share their point about the war, it's more real. When you have someone who already has rapport with the community, that's why SRAP works," said Randle.
Maxwell was one of those Soldiers, returning to his hometown in January to work with recruiters in the Maysville, Ky., station. He has deployed to Iraq twice.
During his 14 days as an SRAP, Maxwell gave presentations to two classes at his former high school, in addition to other duties.
"It was pretty good," he said. "The kids were full of questions, wanting to know everything about everything." Maxwell said he also talked with students during lunch and told them about his time in Iraq as well as his stateside Army work with new Soldiers in basic training at Fort Knox, Ky.
"I talked about basic training, OSUT, what the days are like," he said. "I showed on my laptop pictures from Baghdad, free time, battle buddies writing letters and the good side of Iraq, not what you see on the news," He said he also talked about eArmyU and the GI Bill.
"That's basically what it's all about, telling about the war in your own words, what actually happened," said Randle.
Another key to using SRAP well is the Local Recruiting Support System, said Hoversholm. The LRSS database is a Web-based management tool for tracking and planning local marketing events and media placement.
"The battalions enter data into LRSS," Hoversholm said. "Juanita relies on that heavily. And that data's only as good as what the battalions are inputting." Randle matches events that have been entered into the database with a Soldier's hometown.
The intent of LRSS is to help synchronize and maximize resources at both the national and local level. It provides a marketing calendar that displays details of national and local events and activities, where SRAP participants could provide support.
Col. Don Bartholomew, director of USAREC G5, agreed that planning is crucial.
"Planning for specific use of SRAPs at events within a station's area is key to getting the most out of that asset," he said.
He also said it's important to let the Soldier know what is expected of them.
"Educating of the SRAP upon arrival of their duties, and proper recognition afterward, is a great way to spread the word internally to the Army that we value their efforts," Bartholomew said.
Successful SRAPs can be somewhat hit and miss, however. Pat Grobschmidt, chief of advertising and public affairs in Milwaukee Battalion, said it's based on the individual Soldier.
She also said the majority of recruiters in her battalion are OIF/OEF veterans themselves, which was not the case when SRAP was developed.
Still, Soldiers working as SRAP representatives can validate what a recruiter says, she said.
"They have somebody who's standing up there not wearing a recruiter badge, who can validate what a recruiter's telling him. He can say, 'Yes, this is what it's really like during a war,'" Grobschmidt said.
Maxwell saw the program as a chance to glance into the life of a recruiter. He was scheduled to report to the Recruiting and Retention School in February and was encouraged by his command sergeant major to look into SRAP.
"At first I wasn't too optimistic about recruiting duty. But now it's looking pretty good," he said. "These guys have been really helpful."
Getting to go out with a recruiter, listen in on discussions with prospects and see how a station operates was valuable for Maxwell.
"I got to see about the paperwork, pains and frustrations, problems that can arise, even after you get them processed, things that come back," he said of his experience.
Sgt. 1st Class Douglas Mason, station commander in Maysville, said he got good reports from Maxwell's presentations and at least one lead.
"He will be a fine recruiter," Mason said.