FORT KNOX, Ky. -The initial concept for the Female Engagement Team was to increase the number of women serving, but after the first FET engagement during the Steve Harvey Foundation Leadership Camp for boys in Atlanta, June 7-12, Brig. Gen. Donna Martin, U.S. Army Recruiting Command deputy commanding general, believes the FET may also prove helpful in recruiting young males.
While 100 boys and young men from fatherless homes were involved in educational enrichment and mentorship activities, their moms engaged with Martin and three FET members during a panel discussion.
The discussion opened up with a video showing civilian and military mothers with their children.
"The whole point of that was to set the context for 'we're all alike,'" Martin said. "You're a mother and I'm a mother, so from that perspective, I wouldn't make a recommendation for your child that I wouldn't make for my own. Setting that context, I think, was very important."
Much to Martin's surprise, the women didn't quiz FET members about their personal Army experiences as females, but rather had questions about military service in general, deployments, and sending their sons to war.
"These women were on their game, there wasn't a question they couldn't answer, so FET not only brings a look but an expertise in the recruiting role," Martin said. "This first engagement proved the command has a myriad of talent on this team."
FET member Sgt. 1st Class Margarita Ingles, Park Meadows, Colorado center leader, who talked about how she recruited one of her three sons and her husband, said most of the women had little or erroneous information about military service, the qualifications, enlistment process, and contractual obligations, but by the end of the panel discussion had become enlightened about the opportunities.
"They also indicated that they will support their sons, grandsons, brothers or any family members who considered enlistment into the Army, something they were not open to do before participating in this activity," she said. "They were able to connect with the panel on a personal level and identify themselves with us as females, mothers and spouses, thus allowing them to feel comfortable."
FET member and Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Medical Center Recruiter Capt. Candace Gordon has two daughters in the Army Reserve and a son who shipped to basic training last month, information she shared with the audience.
She said this first FET engagement embodied the full intent of Martin's vision, giving her the chance to influence some of the most influential people in a young person's life.
"Being able to answer their burning questions, concerns, and clear up misconceptions about military service, especially the Army and sharing our feelings, fears, and thoughts about our children and spouses helped to connect us to them as women in a unified bond," Gordon said. "We were seen in the same, yet different light."
Since this was a camp for boys, Martin wasn't sure, initially, that she wanted to use this venue for a FET engagement, but after the positive response received from the mothers, said she has learned not to put limits on this team.
"It became apparent that establishing a good rapport and relationship with mothers was very important," Martin said.
"From what I see, I think the research would prove that females talking to mothers forms a lot more trust. I just think it's a great tool we have ... and I think it's very effective."
Martin encourages every brigade commander to employ their FET team at any engagement they see fit, including those targeting young men and influencers.
She said a few of the women even expressed an interest in joining themselves and asked about acquiring additional information for themselves or significant others.