By John B. SnyderDecember 24, 2009
WATERVLIET ARSENAL, N.Y. -- In a continuing effort to educate the Watervliet Arsenal workforce about the world outside of their immediate workspace, I have traveled from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli in search of this story - figuratively speaking because the Arsenal command group wouldn't fund my TDY.
As most folks know, the Watervliet Arsenal is an Army installation and so, I was a little surprised to find in one of the Arsenal buildings, U.S. Marines, 11 of them to be exact.
As I crept up the steps to the second floor of Building 40, Marine Corps indoctrination began. Painted on each step were leadership traits that Marines value, such as integrity and loyalty.
Having spent a few years in the Army, it would take more than 16 or so steps to indoctrinate me. Onward I went.
When one thinks about the power of first impressions, the Marines did not disappoint. As expected, everything in the office complex was dress-right-dress, Marines rose from their chairs and stood when they talked, and history and tradition were proudly displayed on the walls.
So, what are they doing here'
Despite seven of the Marines having recently served in combat, I would say that the mission they are on may be as foreign to them as duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.
They are Marine Corps recruiters who are responsible for finding and then motivating young men and women to step up to the challenge of serving their country. Not an easy task considering our nation has been at war for more than eight years.
According to Capt. Paul Gates, executive officer, the Arsenal Marine Corps Recruiting Station is responsible for 10 recruiting sub-stations that are dispersed from the Canadian border to Yonkers to Binghamton - more than 30,000 square miles of terrain.
"To accomplish our mission, we have 68 Marines and two civilians that either work at the Arsenal Recruiting Station or at one of the sub-stations," Gates said. "Of the 68, only 36 are recruiters."
To put this into perspective, 30,000 square miles of terrain divided by 36 recruiters means there is one recruiter per 833 square miles. Given this expanse of terrain, or what some call the "tyranny of distance," trying to orchestrate recruiting operations is no small challenge.
"From our headquarters at the Watervliet Arsenal, we provide the command and control, training, and the resource management for Marine recruiting operations throughout our section of New York," Gates added.
To support the field recruiters, the Arsenal headquarters has as one of its 11 assigned Marines a school-trained public affairs noncommissioned officer to conduct marketing and advertising.
Sgt. Joseph DiGirolamo, marketing & public affairs, said that despite the poor economy the Marines are not taking anything for granted.
"The fact that there is a high unemployment rate does not change how we conduct our operations. Our recruiters spend at least two hours every day in the high schools just as they did prior to the downturn in the economy. We also don't look at the competition from our sister services, because we have always made mission regardless of what our sister service recruiters are doing," DiGirolamo stated.
According to a Department of Defense news release, the Marine Corps had 31,413 accessions, making 100 percent of its 31,400 goal in fiscal year 2009.
According to Capt. Brent Rider, operations officer, the Watervliet Arsenal operations had 585 accessions last fiscal year, making 100 percent of its mission. This mission was the equivalent to fielding three Marine Corps rifle companies.
Considering the recruiting station has only 36 recruiters, this was no small achievement given the target market for enlistment is much smaller than that for an Army recruiter. For the Marine Corps, the target markets for enlistment are men and women 17-29 years old, Rider said.
According to GoArmy.com, Army accessions can be 17-41 years old.
Rider also validated DiGirolamo's statement regarding competition.
"The Marine recruiters do not define success by beating our sister services, we define success by mission accomplishment," Rider said.
Given that these are U.S. Marines, we should not expect anything less.