Thursday, June 22, 2006

Nearly a dollar after taxes

Another day is almost in the books. I spent most of today getting ready for next week. I finished assembling a waiver packet for someone who will be joining soon. As I'd mentioned before, no one wants to join more than someone who isn't qualified. To ease Sugarbutt's concerns I don't mean that to be as mean as it sounds. I actually like it when the people I'm running waivers on are anxious to join. It's a lot of work to get a waiver done, so knowing that the work will result in a contract is a burden off the back. Working a waiver for someone who is not fully committed is an exercise in frustration.

Tomorrow my pending loss sees "the man". I got the call this afternoon from "the man" looking for what time he'll be seeing Mr. HB. FYI, around 11am PST my DEP loss will be confirmed. It's nice to know when the blade will be dropping across my neck. Despite what they say it's not the suspense that kills you, it's being decapitated by the axeman's blade. I wonder if I can get that on a t-shirt? Or maybe add it to my business card?

Despite my pending nut-itude I remain hopeful, because I have no choice. Previously my release valve for work-related frustration was to bitch and moan with my fellow recruiters. However that avenue was recently cut off by a requirement to be happy, and if you're unable to be happy one must "fake it unitl you make it". So I'm unable to express my displeasure at "the system" through my usual release. This is the stress equivalent of blue balls, and it feels just as good.

Oh, and I liked the add from eBay that comes up when you Google blue balls.

When I originally pulled back the curtain to reveal the small man manipulating the large, floating head I knew that it would comes with a price. That point was driven home to me not long after. Since then I've had to become more of a self-editor. I won't call it censorship or prior-restraint, but knowing that people in a position to cause great pain read this, and know who to call, does have an effect. For the most part it's a positive effect though. It makes me think harder about what I'm writing, and what's motivating the writing. I try not to write when I'm feeling pissy because, well, I'll say something I don't really mean, and really don't want put out for all to see.

However I've noticed a trend that feels like it needs to be commented on, and I find myself worried about what will happen if I do comment.

There have been a lot of changes in recruiting lately, and I've commented on them, but not really in the way I'd have liked to. These are changes coming from my command, and it's not a Soldier's place to question such things. But what does one do when they feel that such changes aren't a good idea? Of course one has to suck it up and drive on, but does that requirement mean that it's unauthorized to contemplate at the same time? I've never really thought so.

One of the things that makes the American military great is our unacceptance of convention. Thought and analysis are encouraged. Everyone from the lowliest private to the highest general is allowed, within reason, and sometimes encouraged, to think outside the box. The recruiter incentive pay is an "outside the box" thing. I know that such a monumental shift in the way we do business wasn't undertaken lightly. I'm sure that many, many meetings, phone calls, emails, and forests of PowerPoint slides were involved in the analysis, development, and implementation of the program. And that lil' ol' SFC B wasn't even a thought in those steps. Whatever secret squirrel conferences were key to the decision were many, many echelons above SFC B. But just because it came down from above does that mean it's beyond question?

Offering a monetary incentive to perform one's duty just strikes me as wrong. What is so much harder about recruiting that it requires payments for specific performance? Will the rest of the Army look at USAREC and start to think that maybe they should be allowed to pay for performance as well? I'm sure that the Soldiers who push themselves to score a 300 on the APFT wouldn't mind an extra $50 for that accomplishment? A sniper who kills an enemy sniper probably wouldn't mind a couple more dollars for such a difficult achievement. And the opposite holds true as well. Will pay start being deducted from NCOs who get a 4 block? If we're going to be paid for doing our job it stands to reason that it will become acceptable to reduce payment for those who fail to achieve.

Maybe this is a step towards a contract force. I know that several recruiting stations and companies are all civilian recruiters, and I think many of those stations and companies are successful. Now, I've heard rumors that they were successful because the civilians were put into productive locations in productive markets, but they're rumors and I don't care enough to investigate. Rumors notwithstanding I guess the theory is that the civilians are paid by the contract so they work harder to enlist people and are thus more successful. The incentives are being passed to the Army recruiters as well though, so is it something that will make us work harder and become more successful?

I have no idea.

Myself, I am already working 12-14 hour days. It's not always the most focused of work, but it's a good, honest effort. Obviously it's possible to work harder, but there reaches a point of diminishing returns. There are also some gaps in the incentive. The enlisting of three Prior Service and two kids with a grads with a 49 QT will receive nothing for enlisting five Soldiers, while someone enlisting 40% of that is eligible for $100 because they happened to have the same grad pop a 50. I know it's a stupid situation to imagine; if they guy has 5 enlistees he's a good enough recruiter to have a GSA as well, but I'm sure it will happen to someone and do nothing but piss them off.

I stand behind my assertation that adding money to what we do will just result in increased bitterness, a greater chance of improprities, and provide fuel to the counter recruiters' points. And all this for no great improvement in recruiting. That's my opinion at least. I'll probably be wrong, and I'll be happily wrong as the RIP leads to 5,000 new enlistments of people who would not have enlisted were it not for the extra effort put in by the now paid-on-commission recruiting force.

As a taxpayer I find myself a little concerned by the money being spent in the recruiting effort. I have no problem with the money being spent, but with the method for accounting for it. Between the increased enlistment bonuses, college money, referral bonuses, and now recruiter incentive pay, what is actually going to work? I'm sure there is a method to determine the additional enlistments generated by each, and, well, I'd like to know that the information is going to be readily available to the public.

Many of the recruiters I've heard from through email feel that the referral bonus hasn't really been a terrific source like some believe. The people being referred are people who would have enlisted anyway. Of a hypothetical 100 enlistments, 90 of them were people who would have enlisted regardless. So, basically the Army is paying $100,000 to get an additional 10 enlistments. Maybe $10,000 per contract is worth it, I don't know.

Any shortfall in recruiting is not going to have an easy answer, or at least an easy answer that works. Throwing money at the problem won't fix it, but it will make it look like the problem is being fixed. Solving the disconnect between the civilian world and the military world is something that will take time and effort. With bases closing fewer and fewer people live near the military. Reserve and National Guard facilities take on the look of civilian office buildings, to the point where people can drive by them daily and not notice the motor pool filled with cammoed HMMWVs.

It's too easy to throw media blame into the game as well, but that doesn't make it an untrue allegation. The rumor of a massacre conducted by Marines results in footlong stories in the A section of the paper. A senator piles on to the charges by saying he was told the Marines were guilty before the probe could be completed. The possibility the Marines were acting within the rules receives scant attention, and as the truth of the matter slowly comes forward the "massacre" looks more and more like a tragedy of war, exacerbated by the enemy's penchant for using innocent people as shields. But the story leaves the front pages and moves to the later sections, next to ads for a dollar off an oil change.

The heyday of WWII media jingoism isn't the answer, but I'd be happy with a media that is simply impartial, or, failing that, not quite as willing to publish Al-Qaeda press releases. The fact that most captured AQ plans seem to contain some reference to the important of creating negative reports from the US and world media should be a notice to those who publish. I do believe that when my enemy's plan requires me to do something, it's to my benefit to not do that thing they want me to do, if possible.

Personally, I'd like to see more of the milblogs tout the benefits of serving more directly. Far be it from me to tell the big guys what to write about. I'm a lowly recruiter that just recently hit 20,000 visitors after a year. But I'd be willing to bet that an effort by the recruiting commands to reach out and advertise with bloggers, mil and non-mil alike, would result in new enlistees who wouldn't have been reached before. It would tickle me pink to read Smash suggesting that those interested in serving go call their local Navy recruiter. Blackfive could do the same thing, and possibly make some additional money off of it through the Referral Bonus program.

Anyways, it's late, I'm tired and my train of thought has derailed and jumped about three different tracks.


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