MILWAUKEE -- Recruiting for an all-volunteer force remains a challenge in spite of the Army meeting its goal last fiscal year. Not every community supports a youth's decision to join the Army and many schools still restrict recruiter access to students.

In response to these obstacles, the Milwaukee Recruiting Battalion started a dialogue with its community leaders and activated a community advisory board. Chaired by retired Maj. Gen. Paul E. Lima, the board aims to positively impact local perceptions of service to country. It operates on the notion that recruiting is not solely an Army responsibility but a challenge for the nation and local communities, said Lima.

Lima and John Curtis, the board's vice chairperson, have taken the concept a step further by activating company-level community advisory boards. They have combed the battalion's geographical footprint garnering support from smaller communities and educating company commanders and first sergeants on the resources available.

"We recognize that the issues are different for each company area," said Lima. "And that board members from a specific region cannot really have an influence in another region."

Lima and Curtis advise company leaders to shape their boards in accordance with a strategic analysis of their recruiting environment.

"We tell the companies to first determine the skills sets they need before going out and selecting people to fill those spaces," Lima said. "A board has to be developed to meet a company's recruiting objectives. Otherwise it'll go off on its own and become irrelevant."

Last fall, Lima and Curtis visited the company areas to meet with commanders and first sergeants to get them thinking about the purpose and makeup of a board.

During a meeting with Fort McCoy Company's leadership, Lima and Curtis emphasized to Capt. Kevin Hock and 1st Sgt. Thomas McEwen to think of them as resources as the leadership starts to develop a local advisory board. Lima and Curtis suggested establishing representatives in each of the major cities since the company area is too spread out for one board or committee to oversee.

McEwen said an advisory board can provide a structural means of getting support from the community and raising awareness about Partnership for Youth Success.

It's also another way to improve a company's outreach.

A school district in Hudson is currently resistant to allowing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). Hock said that he would have better chances of breaking that resistance if he had an ally in that district.

"A member of that local community is in a better position to communicate to the district and schools that taking the ASVAB is not a commitment to the Army. It's just a career exploration," Hock said.

In fact, one of the messages he would like to deliver to certain communities, once a board is activated within his area, is that the Army is the most rewarding career choice a young man or woman can make.

Having a clear idea of how an advisory board can meet a recruiting company's objectives is the first important step toward building it, said Lima.

Now that the companies have been guided through the initial stages of building an advisory board, Lima and Curtis are switching gears by providing feedback as the companies convene their first formal board meetings.