Saturday, August 18, 2007


This is a post I have been mulling over for ages. I'm actually semi-worried about the fact I'm writing it.

"Recruit with Integrity."

It is said over, and over, and over again. And it's meant every time it's said. And it will likely prevent the recruiting mission from being met.

The other day I was sitting in the office and one of the other recruiters was interviewing a young man. The young man was ready to go. He starts filling out the 2807 and he pauses.

Uh oh.

Asthma. Still has an inhaler. Hasn't used it in a while so he forgot to mention it during pre-qual, but still carries it.

Integrity check.

The right thing is said and done. "Sorry man, if you have asthma you're disqualified. Now if you want to enlist you need to be off the inhaler for X amount of time and a couple tests run by your doctor showing you don't have asthma." Regardless of how badly this kid wants to enlist, he's now disqualified. Sure, it's possible to get a waiver for someone who has had asthma in the past. I've just never seen one get approved. Ever. But I'm sure someone, in the all of USAREC, has had it approved.

One of my first recruiting "learning experiences" involved my previous station commander taking me in to his office, shutting the door, and telling me that no one would ever be eligible to join the Army if they were 100% honest on the 2807. He proceeded to tell me about how he lied on his enlistment (ironically, he had asthma), and then roleplayed for me the technique to get someone to conceal their disqualifications. I was stunned. The reason I was standing at parade rest while being told how to get someone to lie? I had submitted a 2807 on someone where they admitted to having been in rehab for alcohol abuse.

A week later Denver happened.

Seeing that recruiter go to Pucker-Factor: HIGH when that reporter replayed that video tape made me resolve to never be that guy.

The Army Value Integrity is defined as "Be willing to do what is right even when no one is looking." My addendum to that is "Even if no one is looking, assume someone is." While I might regret that we live in a world where some people will only uphold their integrity because they're afraid of being caught, I prefer that kind of weak integrity to a total lack of integrity. I'm a realist. Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still doing the right thing.

I'm looking at my USAREC Talking Points and I see that, as of July, the Regular Army was 1.4% over their YTD mission. One and a half percent. 741 people.

13% of Americans have asthma. Up to 6% of Americans have ADD/ADHD. The GAO found that the services could do a better job in identifying and tracking recruiting improprities. And lastly, it's almost human nature to take a short-term benefit over a long term one. To me, this means people are more likely to risk their careers to enlist one person now, than to not enlist that person, but leave USAREC with the same rank they had when they reported.

I had talked about the recruiters in Tennessee who had told an undercover reporter to not say a thing about taking Zoloft. This was a random person walking into a nearly random recruiting station. Had that not been an undercover reporter, and instead a legitimate person walking in off the street, they'd have probably enlisted him, and the Army would be at 742 people over the YTD mission.

Here we are in Year 6 of the War on Terror. Six years of combat operations. Six years of recruiting volunteers in a war. A war which is not popular. A war which is, for the most part, not reported on competently or honestly. The margin for success in this recruiting enviroment is razor thin. And the success we have had to this point has been accomplished by permitting a much broader swathe of the population to enlist, and using a very, very big carrot.

The mission isn't going to go down. We're not going to wake up tomorrow and see that "terror" has stopped and everyone can go home. You can't make someone volunteer for the Army. Volunteering is a binary decision. You do or don't. You want to or you won't. If a recruiter "makes" someone enlist, 9 times out of 10 they're just enlisting a Future Soldier loss. MG Bostick said that only 16% of the market would consider volunteering for the Army. Let alone actually enlisting, or meeting the qualifications for enlistment. That is a pathetically small percentage of people from which to recruit.

I've worked with recruiters for a good chunk of my career. Back when I was a PSNCO I had to deal with recruiters looking for acceptance letters, etc. When I worked in Retention, most of them were former recruiters. And now I am one. Stories about Gold Seal, ringers, telling people to shut-up about some disqualification flowed from the recruiters I knew from back in the day. They were badges of "honor" for them. The feeling I got was that you weren't a real recruiter until you'd done you first impropriety. These were recruiters who recruited back when the FBI check took weeks to get back, and it was possible to get In-DEP waivers. And this was back when the Army was so far ahead of the game that the only contracts which counted for anything were Grad/Senior Alphas.

If I were to read a GAO report which said that the Army improperly enlisted 741 people who were actually disqualified, I wouldn't bat an eye. It wouldn't shock me. I don't even know if it would upset me anymore. As I said, while I wish we lived in a perfect world, I know we don't.

Take a look at Page 27 of the GAO report. It's a chart of when recruiting irregularities occur. Guess what? The end of the month is when most recruiting irregularities occur. Color me shocked. Imagine that. The end of the month is when most recruiters send down people who are unqualified. I wonder why? Those are just the ones that were caught.

I have no idea how many recruiting improprieties go undiscovered. Lord knows that the docs are MEPS are damned good at getting people to talk about things they never mentioned to me, so I'd like to think that most are caught. But still... one and a half percent was the margin for error.

With 6,000 recruiters recruiting 69,500 people (RA and USAR) in 10 months, I find it stretches my disbelief to think that every irregularity has been uncovered. 2% of recruiters had a substantiated impropriety in 2005. These were people whose fraud was discovered, investigated, and determined to have been intentional. What goes undiscovered?

I recruit with integrity. I've done some stupid stuff in my life, but the people I'm putting in the Army are, as best as I'm able to determine, fully qualified. They might need a waiver, but I get the waiver. SFC SC2 tells us frequently how important it is to do the right thing. I preach it as often as I can as well. SSG George, SSG Tomas, SSG Tree, and the rest of my recruiting station do our human best to find people who we'd want next to us in combat. It's difficult work to do the hard right over the easy wrong. We finished last month one, one short of mission box. One freaking contract. We could have had that one if we'd told that kid to shut-up about his asthma.

When I go into the office to work on what should have been a day off, I'm doing it knowing full well that it could have been avoided if another recruiter had been willing to convince an applicant to lie. As much as I hate having to work on a day I really, really wanted off, I prefer this to the Sword of Damocles which is an applicant who is lying at your suggestion.

Here's the rub though. Recruiting with integrity doesn't get you the day off.

You don't get credit for doing the right thing. It's a flaw of human nature really. No one remembers the surgeon who does everything right, but if they don't account for a sponge, everyone knows about that. The tens of millions of people who go through life without a disease because of a very good vaccine aren't remembered when three families take the drug company to court over their child's freak allergic reaction to the drug. Being the good guy in the movies lets you save the day and get the girl. Being the good guy in the real world gets you nothing.

Recruiting with integrity doesn't get you out of having to complete a 50 page Excel spreadsheet on why you were a low producer. You can't tell your station commander that the reason you didn't write X contracts was because you didn't find enough qualified people and you weren't willing to tell an unqualified person to shut the heck up. You can't point out that the number of people who are morally, medically, and aptidutinally (is that a word?) qualified, and who also want to enlist is very small, and that finding one at any given moment is, essentially, random.

Being told to "recruit with integrity" is simple. It's abstract. You're not dealing with a specific. I've always been curious how it would be dealt with if, instead of it being abstract, it was specific.

What is the answer when presented with the scenario of "If Ms. Snuffette doesn't reveal her asthma, then the company will box." There is no other choice. It's mission day. Ms. Snuffette is it. She enlists, company is successful. She doesn't, failure. Push the scenario up. Suppose that the Army was going to 500 people short of making the YTD mission. Just 500 people. If every recruiting station just had one person who shuts-up about something, then the Army meets it's recruiting goal.

That was a real scenario for this station last month. One person. One person enlists and I'm not working today. We made our choice, and we're paying the price for it. It's a price I'm glad to pay, but man, I'd have loved to be off today.

Anyway, enjoy your weekend. You're welcome to come over for a BBQ.


I removed a couple sentences which I just really, really didn't like. They didn't fit with what I'd thought I was writing, so they were removed.


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