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This New York Times article on the tough times faced by Army recruiters has prompted an interesting cross-blog conversation on the topic, conducted by people who know what they're talking about. Start with Milblogger James Joyner at Outside the Beltway:
One suspects George Patton would slap these guys silly with a glove. We've got soldiers in Iraq getting killed by terrorists with IEDs and these guys are having ulcers and going AWOL because they're getting strongly worded memos?!Which brought this response from Jack Army
First, almost all (notice the qualifier) detailed recruiters that I have talked to would rather be in Iraq or Afghanistan. Just to be sure you understand: Soldiers would rather go to a war zone with the potential for death and serious injury rather than be at home trying to recruit more Soldiers. If that doesn't tell you something, then you refuse to understand the difficulty of recruiting duty.Corrie Dauber at Ranting Profs chimes in:
It is interesting, isn't, that as things get better in Iraq, the recruiters' job gets no easier? It's interesting, too, that the Times gets a bit snarky when commanders send emails to the recruiters bashing them for not making quota that don't take the war into account as a factor in their difficulties, but never considers the idea that the coverage of the war might be a factor as well?And Jason Van Steenwyk at Countercolumn
Given the recent circulation scandals (which don't affect the Times, as far as I know, to its credit), the newspaper advertising sales force is going through pressures of its own, and reacting in similar ways.
Update: My own two cents: recruiting is rough duty. Faced with a choice between that and returning to Iraq I'd likely return to the sandbox - guess I'm with Jack on that one. I'm a fan of James' blog - have been for a while, but I wonder if even his contrast between the rigors of recruiting and war was influenced somewhat by media coverage - I know my pre-deployment view of Iraq was, even though I also knew most of that coverage to be sensational and wrong. Which of course supports what Professor Dauber was saying - if I could be swayed a little think how that same media coverage plays in the minds of recruits.
Certainly there's no denying that the military is losing a "demographic group" that once helped swell the ranks. Those folks who joined "for an education" are now seeking opportunities elsewhere.
And make no mistake about it, recruiting is tough duty. I knew an Air Force recruiter - an E6 with over 10 years in service - who burned out at that task in just a couple of years during the late 1990's - long before the war on terror was acknowledged for what it was. Extreme hours, travel, and pressure combined to quickly wear him down, and the experience over all was not a pleasant one at the time nor did it ultimately become a fond memory for him. (Disclaimer, he had volunteered for the duty to get close to home due to the fact a close relative was terminally ill, this certainly didn't help.)
Not everyone experiences the same results. And not all days for recruiters are all bad. Check out what this crew is up to. And consider this Blue State nightmare - your kid goes off to Spring Break with your car and credit card then comes home not only broke and sunburned but with a contract for military service too.
Update 2: An Air Force recruiter sends in this little
recruiting prop beauty (click for high-res):
A cutom-made USAF Bike from the Orange County Chopper crew, making it's debut appearance at the Golden Corral 500. It's complete with Stealth Bomber gas tank, Air Force symbol spokes, F-22 rear views, and a round for an A-10 Thunderbolt's GAU-8/A 30mm Avenger Cannon. Sweet.
Of course, somewhere an Army recruiter is getting chewed for not thinking of this one...
Update 3: I stand corrected (yet again!) by a commenter! Scott T points out: "American Chopper did a pair of episodes (Part 1+Part 2) of building a "Commanche" bike. So the Army's gotten their shot already."
The same link has a POW bike, and you can view both it and the Commanche from multiple angles there.
Meanwhile, on a related note (related to recruiting and manpower, I mean. After all, that was what we were talking about, right?) a couple of stories indicating retension is pretty good for the US GI's in Germany, many of whom are just back from Iraq. Could it be the lack of exposure to American media has left them with some sort of a sense of pride?
Under the headline Army retention rates booming among 1st ID, 1st AD soldiers in Europe comes an analogy I wouldn't have made, but it gets the point across.
Many vow they?re getting out, said Sgt. Maj. William Sharpsteen, command career counselor for U.S. Army Europe in Heidelberg. But soldiers coming out of the desert often are like the pregnant woman who swears she?ll never go through all that pain and discomfort again, Sharpsteen said. ?Then a month after the delivery, she?s talking about having another baby.?Read the whole thing, as a wise man once said.
A companion piece examines the motives for Soldiers deciding to stay or go. Among them:
Spc. Alphonso Rodriguez, 27, of Company C, 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, plans to transfer to the Air Force, largely because of what he feels are better educational opportunities.In reality that depends more on your actual job than your branch of service.
His switch has nothing to do with Iraq, Rodriguez said. He praised the 1st AD chain of command, adding that he had a first sergeant and noncommissioned officers who ?did everything for troops,? and morale in Iraq was high.
?I love the Army. But I think the Air Force has better educational opportunities,? he said.
I think he just digs the Air Force bike...
Update 4: Funny - after reading informed blog content like the four sites linked above to find this in the Boston Globe. And by "funny" I mean not funny. Parts of this might be truth...
When Richard Nixon abolished the draft a generation ago, he effectively relieved citizens of any obligation to participate in the nation's defense. Military service became strictly a matter of individual choice, one that the Pentagon promoted as a job opportunity.but this is wrong:
As a consequence, the military establishment that emerged by the 1990s as a preeminent symbol of revived national self-confidence and self-esteem was in no sense representative of American society. Its members came not from the suburbs but from the farm and the inner city, not from Harvard but from Prairie View A & M.It's an opinion piece, but in this instance the author is uninformed - or lying. The military is indeed representative of America. I'm from the suburbs, as are many others far as I can tell. Honestly it's not something we care enough about to ask. The reality is that the largest group of those currently serving are from military families.
And Harvard grads must be present to make a group representative of America?
Hmm... I have read that the Times IS part of the circulation scandal. In any case, they are certainly losing subscriptionsPosted by Max at March 28, 2005 04:55 PM
American Chopper did a pair of episodes (Part 1+Part 2) of building a "Commanche" bike.
So the Army's gotten their shot already.
It's 2nd down on the left column.Posted by Scott_T at March 28, 2005 08:40 PM
Feel a draft?Posted by Unlikely Source at March 28, 2005 09:55 PM
From Harvard? I raised my hand to be sworn into the Naval Reserves in Aug 72. No draft over my head. Terribly unpopular to be assoicate witht he military then.
I began life in the suburbs of Seatle, then spent two years on Okinawa, back to Bellevue, WA, then 3.5 years on Guam and then 5 years in Charleston, SC. The Citadel graduated the largest batch of Ensigns of any NROTC unit that year, I think aboout 50 some of us and about 30 some USMC 2 Lts as well. Not Harvard by any means, unless they get buzz cuts on day one and shine their shoes for 4 years....Posted by Curt at March 28, 2005 09:58 PM
Needing Harvard grads to be representative of America is especially tough considering military recruiters have only been allowed on campus for the last year or so.Posted by charles austin at March 29, 2005 12:45 AM
I went to Harvard. The guy across the hall from me Freshman year was ROTC. He had to go up to MIT for his ROTC training. I think there are about 40 of them in a class (out of 1,600). Of course, a graduate can join up even without ROTC, something I considered doing (I was interested in Naval Intelligence) but didn't actually do. (No WOT in 1987, and I calculated that it would be easier to quit the civilian job I was offered if I didn't like it.)
Interesting that they chose Prairie View A&M for the contrast. Although it is located in a relatively rural area of Texas, it is a historically black University that draws heavily from urban areas of the state for its students. I wonder if this was an accident...Posted by Peggy at March 29, 2005 01:02 AM
I'm not shocked that the 1ID retention rates are high. That was my unit in GWI and a lot of guys in my unit were very aware of the Division's history, and that we had a tremendous legacy to live up to - high expectations lead to high performance. I recall a few guys who got out when we returned in '91, and I remember the sense of disappointment we had that good guys were leaving the unit. There was such a sense of teamwork, ownership of the unit and cameraderie that nobody seemed to want broken. Peer pressure from good soldiers within the unit was probably the best re-enlistment NCO the Division ever had.
West Point, Prairie View A&M, same thing, right? Not "elite" like Harvard. *spit*Posted by L33t University at March 29, 2005 01:20 AM
Do the recruitment numbers (I read somewhere 94% or 6% below normal) reflect the new increase mandated by Congress, but not requested by the Pentagon?
And just remember that Congress finally got around to up'ing the strength of the Army by about 24k in the latest appropriations. That's 24k above what was being recruited or retained from the previous level, so we're not actually comparing prior year efforts. So if a recruiter's FY 04 goal was 100 and made 100, and this year is 110 and makes 105, he'll have a shortfall for FY '05 even though he made an overall 5% increase over the previous year.Posted by Don at March 29, 2005 01:26 AM
well, 1AD has been back for 8 months, the soldiers we had who didn't plan on staying in got out within 90 days if our return, the rest probably planned on another term in the interim. We have a lot of pride in 1AD, I justr wonder how many re-upped to stay in the division.Posted by SFC Ski at March 29, 2005 01:34 AM
No doubt the writer went to Harvard or someplace like it; after all, it's the Boston Globe. It really seems to bug those people that the US military is the best ever, and got that way without them! Good riddance.Posted by Kurt at March 29, 2005 01:37 AM
Isn't there some statistical coorelation between recruitment and the state of the economy? As the economy improves, doesn't recruitment get more difficult because candidates have more (and improved) competing job opportunities elsewhere?
If this is true, then maybe the MSM can blame recruitment shortfalls on Bush's economic policies!
Poor guy, Bush never gets a fair break!Posted by KSM at March 29, 2005 01:42 AM
Apparently the reporter (surprise) has no idea of military history. Armies have *always* been recruited predominantly from rural residents. The Romans recruited from the provinces more than from Rome. The death blow to the Eastern Empire was when it lost the highlands of Anatolia, where it had recruited most of its armies. In our own Civil War, probably the best Union troops were from the western semi-frontier, the next best from the eastern rural areas, the very worst from the eastern cities. (And of course the incredibily resilient Confederate armies were recruited almost entirely from rural areas).
All in all, a failure to recruit at Harvard is as significant as a failure to find professors of philosophy in Siberia. Except that recruits are generally more useful and more capable of clear expression.Posted by Dave Hardy at March 29, 2005 01:58 AM
I can see where the Reserves and Guard would have problems right now, if your likely going to be called-up you might as well go into the regular Army. The regular Army numbers will bounce back...Posted by Ted B. at March 29, 2005 02:00 AM
As someone who has done recruiting with some failure and some success, but involved with an organization that was involved with probably a MORE difficult recruiting task (not MLM but direct sales)... I have to ask:
Are military recruiters paid commission? If not, they should be. And it should be based on number of recruits, and also to the extent that the testing of recruits identifies them as likely to be "good" soldiers or not.
If done right, the very best military recruiters should be making money in the $100k/annum or more region. I guarantee you, there will be a recruiter out there who is getting 20-100 times as many recruits per man hour compared to the average. He should be paid that amount relative to the average. Of course, this should be coupled with a good and ethical training scheme, and some sort of assurance that the unethical ones (i.e. Join now and I can guarantee you won't get killed!) get fired.
Another thing the recruiters should do is incentivize the RECRUITMENT of recruiters. I.e. those in charge of recruiting should be also partly rewarded on the basis of how good the recruiters they recruited perform.
I'm also sure that using the battery of tests the military use, they can pre-identify likely good recruiters.
Anyway, if the military is not adopting the methods of good MLM and direct sales companies, someone needs to be fired pronto.Posted by taspundit at March 29, 2005 02:31 AM
Probably the Prairie View A&M comment had nothing to do with the fact that it's a historically black college - more likely it was the most hicksville, backwards sounding cow college that the writer could come up with. He would probably be shocked if he actually set foot on campus.
And I have to echo the previous comments - in my experience, as an Air Force brat, married to a former infantryman, whose little brother is now on active duty - soldiers come from all over, but the biggest indicator of who will be a soldier is how they were raised. Of all my friends who are in the military, 90% are brats.Posted by Suldog at March 29, 2005 02:37 AM
As a Air Guard member, I gotta say our recruitment isn't down at all. We are actually well over manning in my shop (You can go as far over manning as you want if you are taking prior service from the same career field.) We have actually been turning down new recruits in our shop because we are full. Most of us have careers that pay much more than active duty, and we don't have to move from base to base. Most of us who were in when Sept. 11 happened have done at least 18 months Active Duty, but thats why we joined and stayed. Not just for the Educational benifits.Posted by R.S. at March 29, 2005 02:38 AM
Couple of points I can't resist adding.
One: it is pretty obvious from the news coming out these days that Harvard, like most of the so-called elite schools ("exclusive" is a better term) are living off their legacy and establishment old boy 'clubbiness'. It's a pure networking environment. If the alums ever wise up to all the lunacy that goes on, some of the schools will slide into oblivion without the constant lifeline of endowment money.
Two: Since I started my degree way back when I was an enlisted puke, I went to a lot of different schools, from undergraduate classes at U. Of Alaska at Anchorage to grad work at CalTech. I kind of feel sorry for people who only get to go to one school, because it hardly gives them a universal (as in university) experience. (I do envy them not losing tons of credits through transfers though)
Three: Unless you are a lawyer or a member of a very few other select professions (mostly having to do with government or liberal arts) nobody is going to give a rat's patootie where you went to school as long as you can produce. And if you are a really s*** hot talent of small-college lawyer kicking Ivy League slacker heinies in court, you're going to move up the food chain on your own terms.
I know 2 young men who have enlisted within the last 6 months. Both are white boys from a middle-class suburb of Dallas.
One enlisted to find a more socially acceptable and constructive outlet for his agression than fist fights with local toughs. The other joined because he feels a need to DO something about the current state of the world.
Harvard wouldn't touch either one of them with a ten foot pole, but I'm proud to call them friends, and knowing that, despite the current national atmosphere, the U.S. can still produce upstanding, strong, decent and principled young men reaffirms my faith in my homeland.Posted by Amelia in Texas at March 29, 2005 04:51 AM
I was a guest lecturer at Prairie View A&M. Great people there, very good questions on my very technical area.
Delightful place. I strongly considered taking a pay cut to work there.
Recruiters? they get paid the same as any other NCO or officer of similar grade. We don't want slick presentations, or deluded customers. We want the kind of people with which the NCO would like to serve. There are marketing professionals who develop recruiting materials, and certainly no shortage of civilian professionals developed the various aptitude tests that project jobs or AFSCs at which a potential recruit would be successful. Better the two good men and an empty billet than two good men put at risk by a man not suited for the task.Posted by Don Meaker at March 29, 2005 06:25 AM
My husband was an AF recruiter from 1997-2000. He stayed in the recruiting field, but went on to train recruiters for a couple years and then spent a couple of years as marketing director for the squadron.
To answer a previous question, no; recruiters do not get paid commission.
REcruiters don't usually want the rural beat because you have to cover too many miles for too few bodies. The large, urban centers are the best places for recruiters to be, preferably not too far from a military base, because that way the local area already has some exposure to military culture (Oregon was one of the worst recruiting regions).
I would say that out of his 20 years in (we had our first anniversary while he was away at basic training and he retired two years ago), that first year recruiting was the worst. The next two years were the second and third worst.
Before he was a recruiter, My husband spent time in Saudi and in parts of ASia we never saw. He wasn't always home in his career as an aircraft mechanic, but when he was home, he was *home.* Even when he was away, we got to talk with him by phone frequently. Not so with recruiting.
With recruiting, We rarely saw him or heard from him, although we still had to make logistical arrangements for his meals, sharing our single car, getting his uniforms cleaned and ironed, and making sure the kids got to see him at some point. When we did see him, my normally cheery, upbeat, easy going, mellow guy was tired, exhausted, stressed, and irritable. I have never seen him under so much strain as during that first years recruiting- and the next two were only a little bit better.
He was unavailable for doctor appointments (I was pregnant with our seventh child and suffered from a separate pelvis, but I still had to drive adn do the grocery shopping because he couldn't take time off from work). He worked every Saturday adn most holidays. He didn't get leave. Promised Thanksgiving leave, planned to go see family members we'd not seen in years, was canceled the night before the trip. He loved certain aspects of his job, but longed for the days when he could hire somebody in the private sector regardless of their weight, ritalin usage, asthma, or whether or not they'd shoplifted once at thirteen.
It was grim. In fact, we were told that this career had one of the highest divorce rates in the military. Writing it all down doesn't communicate very well just how incredibly harsh those recruiting years were.
However, all that complaining aside, we were stationed near a naval station, and previously we'd been overseas in an area where we lived, worked, and played side by side with members of all branches of the service except the Coast Guard. This exposure made us deeply grateful for the contributions and heavy lifting by the other branches and we never lost sight of that, even in the darkest days of recruiting.
Recruiting for the military is much harder than most people imagine (although he hears the AF is now doing so well that goals are less than half what they were in his day, and this kind of makes him want to go in a recruiter's office and yack him up iwth his old stories). But I know my husband has only the utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude for the other branches of the service and the work they do in places like Iraq.
Sorry so very, very longwinded.Posted by DeputyHeadmistress at March 29, 2005 06:47 AM
Pressure on recruiters has always been intense, and the job is incredibly tough even under the best of circumstances. I did Sea Cadet training as a recruiter's assistant for two weeks in 1996, and not only did the recruiters that I was working for (the US Navy) have me take the ASVAB, I also got badgered by the Air Force, Marines, and Army guys every time I walked by their doors (especially after they saw my practice AFQT score posted, and found out that I was a girl.) It was a nightmare getting 2 or 3 qualified recruits per month per recruiter in our county (in north-central Ohio,) despite the legions of kids with military families and all the factories cutting back shifts or closing outright. If anything the war may have made things easier in at least one respect: the military is visible to these kids more than once a year at their high school's career day, and it isn't seen solely in the context of "factory, votech, college, or grunt" career day/guidance counselor choices. Certainly the National Guard booth at the Ohio State Fair seemed to get more traffic this year than it did 8 or 9 years ago (though that might have something to do with the way-cool vehicles painted with various pro-Guard messages parked nearby -- it used to be they just had balloons, and you had to go to the local VFW post to see military hardware.)Posted by Sarah at March 29, 2005 07:43 AM
ER-- How long has it been since Harvnerd-I mean Harvard- was representative of the overall American military, if ever?
Aaaannndd, since when is Harvard representative of America, period?
Strange that anyone looking for a standard of America would choose that institution. Says something about those folks. Harvard may be representative of them, but certainly not of "us".Posted by Michael at March 29, 2005 04:55 PM
I have troubles with this line -- "Its members came not from the suburbs but from the farm and the inner city, not from Harvard but from Prairie View A & M."
You know what? for the last three or 4 years, the percentage of African Americans has been 13% of enlistments. And guess what: African Americans are 13.3% of the US population. So that opinion writer can stick that in his or her pipe and smoke it. I wish these bastards would sell their condescension somewhere else.
fPosted by Fred Schoeneman at March 29, 2005 09:19 PM
Has anyone done a correlation study on recruiting and the economy? Grad schools have significantly more difficulty recruiting students in a strong economy, why not the Army?Posted by Dan at March 29, 2005 10:57 PM
"We don't want slick presentations, or deluded customers. We want the kind of people with which the NCO would like to serve. There are marketing professionals who develop recruiting materials, and certainly no shortage of civilian professionals developed the various aptitude tests that project jobs or AFSCs at which a potential recruit would be successful. Better the two good men and an empty billet than two good men put at risk by a man not suited for the task."
I assume that was directed at my comment, although I can only assume you skimmed and did not read it. It seems like you speak from a profound lack of experience - have you ever done any recruiting or had any experience (except on the receiving end) of anything I talked about?
Slick presentations? The military's recruitment stuff is FAR slicker than anything I've ever used. The military had CD-ROMS, videos, television advertising, they even have a multiplayer computer game now. All I had was a telephone, some surveys, and a whiteboard for presentations. Really high tech, expensive stuff.
As DeputyHeadMistress said, recruiting is damn tough, stressful, hard work. Very emotionally draining. There are huge differences between those who are good at it and those who aren't, and the value they give to the military. Instituting pay for performance is a good way to combat that, and get that performance more cheaply.
Guaranteed, the good recruiters who are on this system are going to be working a helluva lot harder than someone on some sort of flat system. If there is a sum of money on the line, people are going to make that one more phone call, one more presentation, go that extra mile. And you could actually pay out less per recruit and have fewer people recruiting - a win-win for the military.
IME, not only did the best recruiters in my sales organization recruit better people on average, they recruited more of them - due to their confidence, work ethic and conviction. It's not a simple trade-off between quantity versus quality.
It's like comparing a good looking stud who is picking up women at a bar versus a Casper Milquetoast who is trying to do the same thing. Your confident stud is going to be getting more AND better looking women than Casper. Same way with a recruiter. Your confident, hard working recruiter who feels a heart-felt conviction that being a part of the military is the RIGHT thing to do is going to get lots of recruits, and the good ones.
Another thing I will mention - you introduced a false dichotomy between an empty billet versus a man not suited to the task. To the extent it's possible to test for this, it's also possible to reward based on that. I.e. if your commission is $500 per average recruit (no idea of what it actually is), you have some objective (or subjective if that's what it takes) standard for how suitable the recruit is. If he is recruited but when he tests he tests poorly, then the recruiter should be paid $0 or a negative amount for wasting military resources. By the same token, he should be well rewarded for bagging a kick ass guy.
Under this scheme, how many poor recruits is a recruiter going to be recruiting? Hint: zero.
Net result of this is that you get better quality recruits through reforming the recruiting process.
BTW I've designed a successful incentive scheme for the company I worked at based on my experience with the direct sales organization. Those principles are applicable wherever it is possible to measure performance accurately and in a way that those who are measuring the performance can't subvert. Since you can have different people testing and evaluating, this should not be a problem.
And if it's possible for a recruiter to identify someone who is effective versus someone who isn't, it should also be possible for another person to evaluate the recruit and give him a subjective but accurate grade, in conjunction with tests such as the AFQT.Posted by taspundit at March 31, 2005 12:11 AM
Slight edit to the above comment,
"those who are measuring the performance can't subvert."
was supposed to be "those whose performance is measured can't subvert."Posted by taspundit at March 31, 2005 12:18 AM
One last thing I forgot to mention... the rewards should be on a continuous scale, not one with discrete jumps, unless they correspond to a "have" or "have not". For instance, say that someone either makes the grade for pilot quality eyesight or not. That would be a case where there might be a need for a discrete, extra bonus.
However, if we are talking something like a score on the AFQT, it is easy to incentivize based on that. Below a certain grade, you don't get any money for it. And it scales upwards depending on score. I list that as a general example, the ideal is to come up with some composite function of the best estimate value of a recruit.
So, you might have three tests, a physical test, some sort of aptitude/mental test, and maybe a subjective judgment score by some sort of reviewer, who would determine things like what the recruit is expecting versus what the military actually offers, to test whether the recruiter was misleading or not.
Based on this combined function, you compute the recruiter's incentive payment (he should probably get some sort of smallish retainer as well). There should be a bonus for each recruit* the combined function. Note that the bonus may well be zero or negative for a substandard recruit.
I think the biggest hurdle in getting this through would be the idea that someone might hate to see a good recruiter getting paid more than some other grunt. That, and the belief that it will lead to an overpaid recruitment staff. However, these measures should allow the military to cut recruiting numbers and at the same time have more effective recruiters who actually love their job.Posted by taspundit at March 31, 2005 01:43 AM
I believe the recruiting drop has deeper roots that can be trace back to 1993. The military reduction in force (RIF) systematically removed over five hundred thousand military personnel as a cost cutting measure that halted the chosen careers of professional military ranks.
The sad truth is the Pentagon saved 2.5 million on every forced mid-career departure and established a recruiting / retainment model that is largely responsible for overall decline in military manpower.Posted by Mike at May 10, 2005 04:48 PM Hide Comments | Show/Add Comments in Popup Window(31) | (Note: You must refresh main page to view newly posted comments here)