SAN DIEGO, California -- When the U.S. Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade (USAMEB) sends displays and demonstration teams to events they're easy to spot -- tractor trailer rigs covered by larger than life images of Soldiers, black and gold parachutes dotting the sky, and the nation's best marksmen hitting target after target.
A decade ago, the brigade was called one of the best secrets in the Army. Today, USAMEB has turned to multi-channel marketing, beefed up social media efforts and added an Outreach Company including eSports and warrior fitness teams in addition to a top-40 band to attract tomorrow's Soldiers at venues across the country.
USAMEB is unique to the Army. Its ranks include the U.S. Army Accessions Mission Support Battalion, U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and U.S. Army Parachute Team. The brigade is part of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC).
At the Miramar Air Show in San Diego, California, the U.S. Army Accessions Mission Support Battalion and U.S. Army Parachute Team teamed with Soldiers from USAREC's Southern California Battalion to generate leads and awareness.
Interactive displays filled an acre of space at the entrance to the air show as Soldiers served as Army ambassadors by smiling, passing out information and doing push-ups alongside visitors. Mission Support Battalion fielded a large canvas tent (DRASH) filled with the medical gear Soldiers use in the field and the Army STEM Experience (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) a rolling semi replete with a virtual scenario where partakers work to rescue workers from an environmental disaster.
Marine Corps Air Station Miramar hosts the show each year, shutting down runways to host attendees and exhibits including the Navy, Marines and Air Force -- all vying to get the attention of air show attendees.
USAREC Southern California Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. John Bleigh worked alongside his troops in the interactive area.
"The main thing at Miramar is the assets and how they attract a crowd," Bleigh said. "We've got people walking by and need something to draw them in."
The battalion commander estimated that 400,000 people would attend the three-day event. Forty recruiters from his battalion greeted crowds, answering questions and providing information regarding educational and career benefits open to Solders.
Watching the crowds move through the interactive area, USAREC San Diego Company 1st Sgt. Jeffery Frazier gave the exhibits high marks.
"The DRASH has done well out here. We've had a lot of kids interested in medical opportunities," Frazier said. "The STEM experience blows people away."
Mission Support Battalion is also called the "Workhorse Battalion" with static and rolling exhibits that cross the nation each year. In 2019, battalion semis and trailers traveled 750,000 miles.
Mission Support Battalion Soldier Sgt. 1st Class Richard Sullins moved among the crowd at Miramar, inviting air show goers to tackle the Army STEM Experience. One of the U.S. Army Accessions Mission Support Battalion's veteran exhibitors, Sullins is a Recruiter by military occupational specialty.
"The only real challenge we have in the STEM is trying the keep the attention of 10-year-olds," Sullins said. "It takes 40 minutes to finish a tour through the STEM experience. Everyone's favorite part is the interactive display."
Sullins had his favorite among the squadron of planes at the airshow.
"It's the A10s and B29 bomber and the history behind them," Sullins said. "My grandfather grew up with the B29. When I was in Iraq, the A10s provided cover for us."
The fantastic weather of San Diego is usually sunny and in the mid-70s. For the airshow, cloudy and rainy conditions cancelled scheduled demonstrations by the Golden Knights. Just days before, the Army's elite parachute team, the Golden Knights, celebrated Army Day in San Diego by making a 5,000-foot jump onto the deck of the USS Midway, now a floating museum.
Sunshine eventually broke through the clouds allowing Army Parachute Team Soldiers to parachute in to start the air show in front of a crowd packed into grandstands along the runway. The Soldiers didn't disappoint, hitting the bullseye, a large "X" on the nearby grass. After landing, Army Parachute Team Soldiers made their way to the Army interactive area and invited members of the crowd to help pack parachutes.
Far removed from cheering fans, Army Parachute Team's Sgt. Ryan Horn checked maintenance on the team's plan to make sure it was ready to fly on a moment's notice.
Horn said, "I'm still new to all of this, understanding it all," Horn said. "Being on the team is just another opportunity the Army has given me. The Army has given me so much."
Often, exhibits from USAMEB are the only contact Americans have with their Army, according to USAMEB's Command Sergeant Major, Steven R. Laick. A shrinking Army footprint and a shrinking population of veterans, means more Americans have less information about the Army than ever before. That makes the brigade's mission even more important as Recruiters face lean times due to a tight job market and employment.
The premise behind the brigade's displays and teams is important, Laick said.
"It's so that we can make the lives of the Recruiters on the ground easier," Laick said. "You bring in a resource like the U.S. Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade and it is like bringing in reinforcements to help draw the community in to that one recruiter. USAMEB supports efforts to give Americans an experience they otherwise would not have received because of their locality and inaccessibility to a military installation.
"There's no other way for the American public, except for the marketing ads on the television or Recruiter in your hometown to connect with America's Army," Laick said. "USAMEB brings the Army to them."