Recruiters, Public Affairs Office team up to win fight for talent

By Chuck CannonJune 6, 2023

Recruiters, Public Affairs Office team up to win fight for talent
1 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Army recruiters talk to people attending the Chennault Air Show in Lake Charles May 27. (Photo Credit: Chuck Cannon) VIEW ORIGINAL
Recruiters, Public Affairs Office team up to win fight for talent
2 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Families attending the Chennault Air Show tour the field hospital set up by Fort Polk’s 32nd Hospital Center Soldiers. (Photo Credit: Chuck Cannon) VIEW ORIGINAL
Recruiters, Public Affairs Office team up to win fight for talent
3 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Staff Sgt. Chad Riner, Shreveport Recruiting Co., works with Cadet Nuriah Indembukhani, Caddo Magnet School, during a JROTC tour at Fort Polk. (Photo Credit: Chuck Cannon) VIEW ORIGINAL
Recruiters, Public Affairs Office team up to win fight for talent
4 / 4 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Kids enjoy a static display at the Chennault Air Show. (Photo Credit: Chuck Cannon) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT POLK, La. — To have a well-trained fighting force, the U.S. Army needs quality Soldiers. Until recently, that’s not been a problem, as the U.S. Army Recruiting Command official website recruitment says goals were met from 2019-2021.

However, in 2022 the Army fell 15,000 recruits short of its goal. Prospects for 2023 are running about 10,000 recruits short of the end goal.

One of the reasons cited by recruiters for the shortfall is lack of knowledge about the Army by potential recruits. While there are Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps units in most high schools, oftentimes the students are limited in their exposure to active-duty Soldiers.

To bridge the gap, the Louisiana Army Recruiting Battalion in Baton Rouge, tenant units at Fort Polk, and the installation’s Public Affairs Office are working together to pair recruiters with cadets during visits to the post located in southwestern Louisiana.

JROTC units from across the state typically schedule visits through the PAO where the cadets are exposed to such military activities as military working dogs, air ambulance, parachuting and firing simulated weapons. They also eat lunch in a military dining facility and visit the installation’s museum to get a history lesson on military life.

Since April, the PAO has worked with recruiting companies in Shreveport and Lake Charles to meet cadets from high schools in their areas during the visit for face-to-face time with those who show an interest in joining the military, answering questions they may have about what options are available and standards that need to be met.

Staff Sgt. Chad Riner, Shreveport recruiting company, said meeting the students at Fort Polk gives potential recruits a look at what the average Soldier looks like.

“At events like this, you get more numbers, which means more opportunities to share,” Riner said. “We get a lot of questions about specifics, which shows the person is interested in maybe joining the Army.”

Riner said you can spot the cadets who have a spark in their eyes.

“Those are the ones who are interested,” he said. “You get more opportunity to visit with those individuals in these settings, than you do in a school setting. I see us doing this more and more.”

Nuriah Indembukhani, a Caddo Magnet School sophomore cadet, was one of those Riner said had a spark in her eyes.

“It was helpful having the recruiters here to answer our questions,” she said. “I’m interested in joining the military and they let me know what I needed to do to be qualified to join, and that I should start now, so that when I’m ready, I’ll be good to go.”

The PAO, area recruiters and Fort Polk tenant units have also collaborated during local events, such as the Barksdale Air Force Base Air Show in Shreveport and Chennault Air Show in Lake Charles. At both events, tenant units from Fort Polk set up static displays, with Army recruiters from those areas set up nearby.

Visitors, including prospective recruits, had a close-up view of different Army systems. They could then find out from recruiters what it takes to join the Army and use those systems.

Capt. Darren Owenby, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, and his team set up equipment and vehicles at the Barksdale AFB Air Show.

“It’s good to get out, show the equipment and show what we do,” Owenby said. “It builds good rapport.”

Owenby said the recruiters told him they’ve already had people ask them about joining the Army after seeing the 3/10’s equipment.

Hopefully this will help with recruiting,” he said. “Our guys have had a great time showing the systems and letting the visitors know what we do.”

Capt. Jaime Dowd, 32nd Hospital Center, and her Soldiers set up a field hospital at the Chennault Air Show. She said setting up the static display at the show benefited everyone involved.

“We get training value, setting up our equipment,” she said. “We also get to create a relationship with the community — what we do and what we have to offer.”

A third benefit is helping with recruiting efforts.

“The Lake Charles recruiters are set up next to us and this gives potential recruits the opportunity to see the different jobs available in the Army,” Dowd said. “That is important. I think many people think everyone in the Army is infantry, but we are a lot more.”

Capt. Kevin Finerty, Lake Charles recruiting company, said the partnership being developed between recruiters and active-duty units is important to meeting the Army’s recruitment goals.

“Attending events alongside active-duty Soldiers lets prospects and applicants talk to people who are actually doing the jobs they’re interested in,” he said. “It helps them make an informed decision before they ask specific questions of our recruiters.
Finerty said he’s been in talks with Fort Polk staff about “A Day in the Life of a Soldier” program.

“We’re looking at bringing in potential recruits to see what it’s like to be a Soldier in a certain field. I see this program continuing to grow.”