FORT KNOX, Ky. - A community service campaign recognizing local heroes has helped Chattanooga Recruiting Company improve its mission accomplishment level from 55 percent to 100 percent in just one year.
Initiated on Veterans Day following the terrorist attack on military recruiting centers in Chattanooga, Tennessee, July 16, 2015, the Army H.E.R.O. Campaign rewards community leaders and educators for community service and Army support. H.E.R.O stands for Helping Everyone Reach Opportunities.
Company Commander Capt. Peter Ahching developed the campaign as a method to boost recruiting numbers that he said tanked after the attack that killed five service members from the Navy and Marine Corps.
The H.E.R.O. campaign allows recruiters and commanders the chance to develop positive working relationships and partnerships with community leaders and educators. These community partners assist the recruiting effort by spreading positive messages about the Army and allowing recruiters access to schools and universities. Individuals are selected monthly to receive H.E.R.O. awards and media recognition.
"It's important to provide public recognition and honor these heroes in the public eye," Ahching said. "That way, we (can) connect the Army to the community and the Army to America. The idea is to identify these community leaders and give them the recognition they deserve."
To date, the company has presented H.E.R.O. awards to 15 individuals, including a local World War II Medal of Honor recipient, Chattanooga's mayor, police chiefs and television personalities.
Ahching said the reason this program is so successful is because he has established friendships and positive working relationships with the local media to ensure every time the company presents an award, the event receives positive news coverage.
"When we put out these kinds of stories that the community embraces, it helps connect us to them," Ahching said. "It makes it easy for our recruiters to work in a community that embraces them. That wasn't (always) the case."
The campaign also stimulates competition among the 91 high schools and 16 universities located within the company's footprint, Ahching said. Every quarter, a H.E.R.O. award is presented to the principal of the high school that produces the highest number of recruits.
When Ahching proposed the H.E.R.O. campaign concept to Lt. Col. Luis Parilli, Atlanta Recruiting Battalion's commander in 2015, he told Ahching to move forward.
"Part of what (U.S. Army Recruiting Command) is about is connecting America to the Army, and that's exactly what this program does," Parilli said. "It forced us and the community to come together. So without hesitation, I told them to launch."
"(Capt. Ahching) had the center leaders become a part of it," Parilli said. "They jumped on the bandwagon, and now you're seeing the fruits of their effort."
When Ahching took command of the company in summer 2015, he said they were the lowest producing company in 2nd Recruiting Brigade and enlisted the lowest number of recruits among all the military branches. Now, they're among the top eight producing companies in the brigade, and in 2016, the company enlisted more recruits than any other service in the area. Ahching credits the H.E.R.O. campaign to the company's success.
"It's how we won the market share and how we were able to establish a strong Army presence in the community," Ahching said. "We're not invisible anymore. That's because of our ability to talk about the Army H.E.R.O. campaign on TV and radio and get into schools, as opposed to just walking in and saying, 'Hey, I'm a recruiter. I'm here to recruit for the Army.' It gave us something to talk about."
H.E.R.O. Campaign media publicity: