FORT KNOX, Ky. (Army News Service, Jan. 11, 2008) -- The U.S. Army Recruiting Command wants more officers at the rank of captain to consider serving as company commanders.

Assignments offer those who would like to serve in or near their hometowns a chance to work closely with community leaders and educators and to tell their Army story.

When Capt. Ronald Johnson took on his second company command assignment in 1981, though, he chose not to serve in his home state of New York. Instead he opted for serving in the Atlanta recruiting company. Now he realizes that if he had not chosen Atlanta, he would not have attended Georgia Tech for graduate school.

"I didn't go into it (recruiting) with any attitude other than, 'OK, the Army wants me to go do this, so I'll go do it,'" said now Maj. Gen. Johnson, who is now deputy chief of Engineers. "I didn't go into it (recruiting) with any attitude other than, 'OK, the Army wants me to go do this, so I'll go do it,'" said now Maj. Gen. Johnson, who is now deputy chief of engineers.

Much like Maj. Gen. Johnson, Lt. Gen. Carter Ham served as a company commander in Lima, Ohio, from 1982 to 1984. Today, Lt. Gen. Ham serves as the director of Operations, J3, The Joint Staff.

Prior to his recruiting assignment, then Capt. Ham said he had not thought, 'not even a little bit,' about serving as a recruiting company commander. "Having spent my first years in the tactical Army, I will tell you that I went out with a little fear and uncertainty on my part," said Lt. Gen. Ham.

However, it was not long into the new assignment that Ham realized the importance of his duties -- that he represented the Army in the eyes of many Americans who had no connection with the Army other than their connection with the local recruiting force.

"So the recruiting force, out there in small towns and villages and in the big cities, in schools and universities, that is to most people in America, the United States Army," said Ham.

Ham soon realized that if the recruiting mission failed, then the whole house of cards, the All-Volunteer Army, could come tumbling down.

"You cannot have a trained and ready Army, prepared to answer the nation's call to duty wherever and whenever that might be required, if the recruiting mission is not successful."

Ham said he gained an appreciation for the dedication of noncommissioned officers while serving in the Lima company. He said that across the board, he had not encountered a higher caliber or more independent mission-focused group of noncommissioned officers.

"My assignment in Recruiting Command was the first time it really struck me about the necessity to empower noncommissioned officers and to have them operating within a clear set of guidelines and intent, but without getting in their knickers each and every day."

During the first month of his assignment, the Lima company did not achieve the mission. However, he found that under good leadership and support at the battalion and brigade levels, he learned, and his company became successful. For him, the widespread myth that failing to meet a mission could end an officer's career came to an end.

"I would say that I am living proof that that is not necessarily the case," said Lt. Gen. Ham.

Maj. Gen. Johnson said that serving as a recruiting company commander was different from serving as commander of Company A, 9th Engineer Battalion, U.S. Army Europe and Seventh Army, Germany.

"I spent almost no time dealing with the personal problems that you would have with a younger less experienced group of team members - people writing bad checks, doing that sort of stuff," said Johnson.

Instead, he spent time with station commanders, who were sergeants first class and recruiters who were mostly staff sergeants. In addition he spent time with community leaders, civic groups, school principals, school guidance counselors, and college administrators -- doing his part in representing the Army.

Representing the Army is what Capt. Richard Frank, the current commander of the Lewisville, Texas, company loves to do. His assignment is his first command assignment, unlike most USAREC company commanders who are on their second assignment. Capt. Frank sees himself as an ambassador for the Army.

"You see a lot of news stories, unfortunately, sometimes they are negative," Frank said. "It is nice to be out here and be able to tell all the positive stories."

Frank served with the 4th Infantry Division in Iraq for 13 months and has plenty of stories about what it means to establish a democracy. He says that in his recruiting job he faces a diversity of challenges and a day-to-day competition to complete his mission. He has extended for a third year of company command time and says he loves it.

"If you love sports, you will fall in love with recruiting," said Frank. "You compete on everything from college contacts to contracts. It's almost like a sports obsession when you are always trying to do better."

Frank admits that recruiting is an awesome mission that the Army cannot lose, no more than the military can lose in Iraq. He admits there are some drawbacks to the job, which for him are the long hours. He spends a good deal of time meeting with centers of influence, high school teachers, and attending Friday night high school football games, which he thoroughly enjoys.

"I am a real big-time sports junkie. I love sports and have always been competitive and probably that has been one of the greatest satisfactions."

He loves building relationships in the community and feels he is preparing himself for future leadership challenges and a successful career.

"I think the biggest reward is making sure we tell that Army story."

"You see these kids come back and they are changed," said Frank. "The parents are so proud of what they are doing. I have enjoyed it."

Since Lt. Gen. Ham and Maj. Gen. Johnson served in Recruiting Command in the early 1980s, a great deal has changed, but the necessity of manning the All Volunteer Army remains the same.

Today's modern recruiting force uses laptop computers with recruiting-specific software installed that is designed to track missions. All commanders and recruiters have cellular phones to keep in touch with geographically dispersed stations and battalion leadership. Each company consists of six to eight stations, and travel out of the office is necessary several days each week. Two hundred forty companies make up the Recruiting Command with changes of command in nearly half of the locations yearly.

Recruiting company commanders serve in a stabilized tour for two years and can extend the tour for an additional year. One benefit officers receive when choosing to serve a Recruiting Command tour is getting the opportunity to serve in or near their hometowns.

Along with Lt. Gen. Ham and Maj. Gen. Johnson, current XVIII Airborne Corps commander, Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin, has served as a recruiting company commander. Each of the three general officers served a command tour in their specialty before coming to the recruiting, which is also the case for most of today's commanders.

Even though Lt. Gen. Ham admits he wasn't thrilled when he received the call from his assignments officer in 1982, he now says, "If you measure by promotion, then I think we are doing OK."

(Pearl Ingram serves with USAREC Public Affairs)