JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. – Service in the United States Army in 2023 looks different to each individual who raises their right hand. Sharing stories of service can help educate those unfamiliar with the Army and hopefully inspire others to serve, too.
The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command held a Leader Professional Development panel on June 22, hosted by Command Sgt. Maj. Daniel T. Hendrex, TRADOC. The LPD featured U.S. Army professionals who shared their experiences and military service in 2023.
The recruiters, drill sergeants, and Soldiers on the panel were hand-picked because of the positive impact they are making on the Army as social media influencers. Through sharing their Army stories, they give a glimpse at what service can look like.
Major topics of discussion included the Army’s accession mission, how recruiters are working to engage with local communities, and what potential recruits can expect as they navigate the many opportunities available to them in the Army.
Hendrex shed light on how important recruiters and drill sergeants are to the accessions mission.
“TRADOC has a huge part in this mission, and it’s simple if you look at our motto, Victory Starts Here. It’s really that first handshake and how we take care of them [new recruits] with our drill sergeants in that transition to be a Soldier,” he stated.
In the Army, everyone is a recruiter. All active-duty Soldiers have the chance to participate in recruiting assistance programs, such as the Soldier Referral Program and the Hometown Recruiter Assistance Program. Participating in these programs opens the door to earn accolades, awards, and even promotions.
Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Kornoelje, who was recognized by Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth as one of the top 50 Army recruiters for 2022 and 2023, talked about how she uses her social media platform to help Soldiers participating in HRAP share their stories of success.
“When my Soldiers return from the HRAP program, I interview them on their experiences with basic combat training and advanced individual training and have them share their story on what they thought the Army was before they went versus after,” she said.
Kornoelje also emphasized the importance for recruiters to build connections with not only the future Soldier, but their family too. That means including potential recruits’ parents or guardians in the discussion and decision to serve.
“You’re only as strong as your family’s support. Having them at that initial appointment helps them feel a part of the team, which is exactly what the Army is,” Kornoelje said.
Sgt. 1st Class Jason Gantz, another top Army recruiter, also spoke about his approach to sharing what Army service is like on social media.
Through building strong connections with the local community and being authentic about his experience, he has quickly found his way to success.
“I look at this as a people business. If you lead with clear intentions and a good heart, the conversations emerge on their own, and through those connections we’re finding the brightest minds in our country,” Gantz said.
Cpl. Aaron Battley and Staff Sgt. Ericka Bernardo began their journey as social media influencers through their passion for videography. At the time of their enlistment, they felt there wasn’t enough authentic social media presence from younger Soldiers and took it into their own hands to start sharing what it was really like to serve in Army.
“When I was younger, YouTube and videography became a big hobby of mine, and when I first started considering joining the Army, there weren’t a lot of videos about it online,” Bernardo said. “The Army quickly became my life, so instead of hiding that I wanted to show more about it.”
She also documented her time as a drill sergeant to show others that “drill sergeants are humans too” and to show future Soldiers what they can expect during basic training.
As social media influencers in the Army are on the rise, Hendrex advised Army leadership to support them, while also ensuring they understand the rules and regulations associated with Department of Defense Instruction 5400.17.
Hendrex also emphasized the importance of recognizing, that at the end of the day, it isn’t about the senior leaders, but the next generation of Soldiers.
“When you’re talking to the youth of America, you’re the last person they want to hear from. That’s why it’s so important to have these younger Soldiers sharing their stories across the country,” he said.
As the Army continues to drive towards its accessions goal, Soldiers like these are invaluable when it comes to inspiring the next generation.