By Mr Mark Rickert (USAREC)October 28, 2011
In the early-morning hours at Bowie State University, nearly 20 cadets gathered outside in the rain for morning physical readiness training. They did their sit-ups and push-ups in the wet grass and called cadence so loud their voices echoed across the dark campus. The cadets know the routine; they do it three times a week. For the two Future Soldiers in their ranks--the ones wearing sweats and T-shirts instead of the official Army PT uniform--the exercises posed some harsh challenges. The up side is that when they arrive at Basic Training in the coming weeks, they'll have a better sense of what to expect. Without even knowing it, those two Future Soldiers are reaping the benefits of a close partnership at Bowie State University between the U.S. Army Cadet Command Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and U.S. Army Recruiting Command (USAREC).
For three years now, Baltimore-area recruiter Staff Sgt. Shawn Atkinson has worked closely with the Bowie State University ROTC and its Recruiting Operations Officer (ROO), Lt. Col. Montrose Robinson. Assigned to Baltimore Recruiting Battalion's Laurel Recruiting Station, he first introduced himself to the department when he enlisted into the Army Reserve a Soldier who simultaneously enrolled into the ROTC program. He earned the trust of the department when he volunteered two weeks of his time to substitute teach for a second-year military science course (MS-2). Since then, Atkinson has become a valued resource to Bowie's ROTC cadre.
"I consider [Atkinson] as a part of Bowie State," said Robinson. "[He's] embedded with us. I don't do any events without bringing [him] in. I look at us not as a team but as a family."
On many university campuses, it's not uncommon for friendly opposition to emerge between the ROO and the USAREC recruiters. This is because both types of recruiter, though prospecting for the same team, have specific missions: one is looking to enroll students into the ROTC program; the other is looking to enlist Soldiers into the active Army and Army Reserve. While this has all the makings of a competitive environment, the two recruiting components at Bowie State University have learned that working together yields a greater reward for both parties.
"There's no longer this wall between us," said Atkinson. "[The ROTC department] doesn't say, 'Hey, you can't be on my campus.' Now, they say, 'This is the mission--coming down from USAREC or Cadet Command--how do we get this done?' We look at each other as a resource. We're speaking the same language. It's a win/win situation for both of us."
On a weekly basis, Atkinson and Robinson find new ways to help each other by pooling resources, sharing ideas and synchronizing calendars. While the ROTC draws on Atkinson for quick access to local Army assets, from rock walls to H3s and career kiosks, the department reciprocates by providing Atkinson with opportunities to speak with students about the active Army and the Reserve. Atkinson also has an open invitation to university sponsored events, from sports games, field and training exercises, and most recently, the ROTC Ranger Challenge, where he served as a primary cadre. Ultimately, both parties make equal contributions to the collective mission.
"People from the outside might look at us and say, 'You're supposed to be competing with each other because you're competing for the same prospects," said Lt. Col. Timothy Gerard Blackwell, professor of military science and chair of the department. "But in reality, we are not. When you have that relationship and you're not competing with each other, it makes [this work] much easier."
So how do they avoid stepping on each other's toes? The answer is simple: they put the needs of the individual first.
If an applicant approaches Atkinson with a portfolio of academic achievements, stellar ASVAB scores, and a desire to continue earning an advanced college education, Atkinson suggests the student talk with the ROTC. Likewise, if Robinson sees stronger enlisted Soldier qualities in an applicant or meets a student who wants to join the Army rather than continue his or her college career, then she sends the applicant over to talk with Atkinson. The bottom line is that the Soldiers work in the interest of the individual, and when both teams work together, everyone benefits.
"The recruiting process is seamless here at Bowie State," said Atkinson. "Students get the full service here--it's a one stop resource. If you want to go ROTC, we've got someone to talk to you. If you want to join the Army or Army Reserves, we've got someone to talk about that, too."
"Synergy means bringing all parts of the Army together, working together," said Command Sgt. Maj. Hershel L. Turner, United States Army Cadet Command, who visited Bowie State last year to talk about, among other things, synergy. "Synergy can help us all make the total mission for Cadet Command and the Army Recruiting Command. When you do things together, you get more. It gets easier."