Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Army Recuriting School

During the past two years the Army has steadily changed their way they train their recruiters. No more are recruiters allowed to come across as used car salesmen. Rather, they are expected to portray the role of a career counselor. The new program was developed and implemented at the Army Recruiting and Retention School at Fort Jackson. “The way we used to do business is nothing like we do now,” said Master Sgt. Ivan Santana, Recruiting Division chief. “We were known as sales reps, now we are in the counseling business. We show people the different routes in life, not just the Army. The word “sales” is not allowed to be used here. It’s like a curse word.” The change was implemented largely due to an Army survey that found the target age population of 17 to 24, (called the Millennial Generation), was more receptive to the counseling approach, than to a sales approach. “The Millennial Generation has been sold to all their life,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Anthony Gales, command sergeant major of the school. “We have found that they want to make a difference and are patriotic. They just need some guidance about how to accomplish their goals.” Sgt. 1st Class Michael Towne, who is an instructor at the recruiting school said the new approach is a good idea and is showing success. “You look at the public today, and what do they fear most? Telemarketers and salesmen,” Towne said. “We don’t want to convince anyone the Army is the way to go. We provide them with a guide to achieve their goals in life.” The biggest challenge in implementing the doctrine has been to retrain established recruiters in the new counseling philosophy.
Sgt. 1st Class Andrew Ackley (left) a student, conducts a mock interview with the help of Staff Sgt. Robert Gassman, (center) playing the role of a high school graduate, and Staff Sgt. Scott Grellin, playing the role of a father.
“It’s difficult to teach old dogs new tricks,” Santana said. “But we have found the successful recruiters had been doing this all along.” The Army recruiting school consists of six weeks of training, followed by a week of evaluation. Much of the coursework involves hands-on training and role-playing exercises where students conduct interviews with other students acting as potential applicants. Additionally, recruiting students go to local malls and school campuses and speak to the public about joining the Army. Waste not, want not, and recruiting leads generated by such talks are passed along to local Army recruiters to follow up. Students also work at a telephone work station where they make calls around the country. Last year, 120 Army enlistment contracts were signed as a result of leads generated from the school.“This experience gives them confidence. If they fail, they have instructors to counsel them to get better,” said Sgt. 1st Class Mark Kinsey, curriculum developer for the school. Last year, 5,041 Soldiers graduated from the school, which is the only one of its kind in the Army. “We look for Soldiers with interpersonal skills,” said Staff Sgt. Charles Warner, instructor. “The tactical and technical skills will come for them, but the big thing is for them to be able to communicate back and forth.” Most Army recruiters are non-volunteers. In fact, about 75 percent of the students who attend the Army Recruiting School were involuntarily selected for recruiting duty by the Department of the Army. The Army chooses Soldiers in the top 10 percent of each military occupational specialty to go to recruiting school. Sgt. 1st Class Charles Boyd, who is in his fourth week at the school, said that despite being DA-selected he is enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“I am excited to do it. To me it is just another challenge,” said Boyd, who will be assigned to a recruiting station in New Jersey following graduation. “We went out to a mall the other day to practice talking with people and I was really surprised how open they were to speak with us. Especially the kids, they were eager to talk about the Army.” Not all students attending the school are DA selected, however. Sgt. Cynthia Ramos, a student at the school who holds a logistics MOS, volunteered to become a recruiter. “I like to help people achieve their goals,” she said. “The Army helped me achieve my goals and I wanted to give back.” Staff Sgt. Antionette Pitts, who is in her third week of the course, said her main motivation in attending the school was so she could help today’s youth. “It is not just about the numbers,” she said. “It is about helping individual young people make educated decisions about their future. A lot of them don’t know what they want to do, or which direction to go in. For me this is a way leading them in that right direction.”

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