Monday, January 29, 2007


A while ago I revisited some predictions I'd made to friends and family back in the day. Go on, read it. I'll be here.

I'm going to go ahead and call a "win" for my "Britney Spears-Paris Hilton.mpg" comment. I called it first, all the way back in 2003. Sure, it wasn't an mpeg, and instead just a picture of Ms. Spears' demonstrating the improper way to exit a vehicle in a skirt while driving with Ms. Hilton, but the spirit of the prediction is there. I also think J.K. Rowling should be careful opening any packages from Russia. Maybe a Geiger Counter would be a good investment for her assistant who screens letters.

Anyways, back to current future predictions.

Sometime in the not-too-distant future there is going to be a big push from various television channels to show video of recruiters saying things they probably shouldn't. I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that these quotes are going to be portrayed grossly out of context.

Rarely recruiters will do and say painfully stupid and improper stuff. There are several layers of command in place to prevent it, and catch it when it happens, but it does happen. Recruiters are people too, we're just as subject to pressure and laziness as anyone else. When it happens appropriate actions are taken. There's probably not much else that can be reasonably done.

However, there is a huge difference between a recruiter who is doing such things with any applicant who walks in the door unqualified, and someone who is coming into the situation looking for a sound bite. That kid in Colorado went in baiting the topic. It doesn't excuse the actions of the recruiters involved, but he went in there with the agenda to find an impropriety.

One of the biggest objections I run into as a recruiter is the war in Iraq. If we weren't at war there'd be no shortage of people willing to sign up to get $40,000 cash and $71,000 for college. However, day in and day out there are reminders in the news, in the paper, online that we're at war and that Soldiers are getting hurt and dying. It means that this "army thing" isn't a "free scholarship", but that it is a real, adult choice, with real world, life and death consequences. That people continue to stream in to recruiting stations across the country is a testament to the spirit of Americans, and those who have come to America seeking something better than they left.

If I'm conducting an appointment, or a follow-up, and the person I'm talking with is not joining, and the reason they're not joining is Iraq, then I'm going to handle that objection. I've been told that you cannot "handle" an objection like Iraq. And I suppose that's true, but I'm not known for being very smart. I think you can handle an objection like Iraq. And I think it's an easy objection to handle. It's all in the approach.

In the Army we're used to dealing with fellow Soldiers. People who have similar experiences and expectations. However in recruiting we're dealing with civilians. These are people who are fundamentally different from us in uniform. They haven't been through training. They haven't had to deal with being reliant upon someone else for their safety and security, at least not to the level of a Soldier.

When they see Iraq, they see it through the television screen, the paper, or a story online. They see it as a civilian. There continues to be a huge misunderstanding about how the Army treats people who enlist. Just the other day I had to explain to someone they would not be going to Iraq as soon as they're done with training. That they're going to spend more time training before going anywhere. People don't know this.

What I'm about to put out here for everyone to read is an amalgamation of how I "handle" the Iraq Objection.
"Okay Skippy, we've been talking for a while (if I'm at this point in the conversation we've been talking for a while) and I've shown you some info about what the Army Reserve is about, how we can benefit you, and we've also discussed how the skills you can bring to the Army Reserve can help us. You've told me that this is something you've wanted to do, but you're just not ready to make the commitment because of what's going on in Iraq.

Believe it or not, you're not the first person who's sat in that seat, looked me in the eye, and told me the same thing. You know what else? You also wouldn't be the first who chose to not join the Army because we're fighting in a war. I understand that sentiment. It's a volunteer Army and I'm not here to make you do anything. However, I'd like to share a couple thoughts with you.

You're a civilian right now. When you join the Army, and you go through the training we provide, you will not be a civilian when the time comes for you to go to Iraq, or Afghanistan, or wherever else the future may take us. You'll be a Soldier. When you go downtown to sign that enlistment contract (notice how I phrase that; sometimes I do lurn things), you're not going to get on a bus that's going to take you to Sky Harbor and put you on a flight to Baghdad. You're going to call me, I'm going to come pick you up, and I'm going to take you home. Then you'll come back to my office and I'll start training you. Right here in this office your training and your life as a Soldier will begin.

This training goes beyond just trying to get you promoted. This is about preparing you. I'm not going to send you off to Basic not knowing how to do a left or right face. It's my name on that line when you go down there. If you go to Basic jacked up, then that reflects on me. I'm not going to have that. I'm not going to let you go to your initial training unprepared. Why do you think the Army would send you into combat unprepared?

What we're doing in Iraq and Afghanistan right now is what we're paid to do as Soldiers. It's why we sign up. Sure, we do it for the money too. Lord knows I get paid very well for what I do. But this is a battle right now, and it's an important battle that needs to be fought. It needs to be fought and won. It's not going to be won by sending a bunch of kids into harm's way without the skills for them to make it home alive and well.

In your Army career you'll spend years training in some way, shape, or form. Training to perform your job better. We're going to take you from being the high school student/college student/ stay-at-home mom you are right now, and help you become someone who defends the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

You're scared of going to Iraq right now because you see the Army sending you, as you are right now, onto the streets of Fallujah. That's not how it works. You'll spend two and a half months just learning the basics of being a Soldier. You'll spend another X months training in your job. And that's just the beginning. When you get back to your unit you'll spend time training. If your unit is preparing for mobilization you'll spend months at a training site learning and relearning those tasks that will get you and your comrades home to your families. And you're not going there alone. You'd be going to Iraq with the finest and best trained men and women in the world. We are people who are willing to lay our lives on the line to make sure you make it home safely. When everyone does that, there is nothing that can't be done.

And that's what we're going to teach you, and that is what we're going to expect from you.

It is possible you might not go to Iraq. I myself have never deployed and I've been in the Army Reserve for 12 years. There are a number of people, even this long after 9-11, who haven't deployed. It's not from a lack of trying to go, but I just happen to fall into this category when I'm not needed in Iraq, and I'm instead needed here in the States. It's not my choice, I'd be over there in a second if I could. My wife doesn't like that, but that's because she'd only have the cat to boss around then (usually laughing by this point).

We've talked for a bit now Skippy, and I've said what I wanted to say. It boils down to your choice man. Yeah, war is a big, scary thing. It's ugly. You don't need to be a genius to know it would be better to not be in a war than to be in one, but you know what? War isn't the ugliest of things. I, myself, would much put my own life at risk to make the lives of many other people better, than to live in peace an security made possible by people ready to do harm on my behalf. But that's just me.

I can't make Iraq go away, I can't make it so you won't go there. But really, when you think about the training you'll receive, the people you'll serve with, and the gear you'll use, it makes it as likely as possible that you'll come home safe and sound, and knowing that for the rest of your life you'll be a hero to millions of people.

So anyway Skippy, I've got two dates and two times when you could go downtown to enlist, are you ready?"

It's not always going to work, and I most assuredly, don't say that every time. That's a combination of a lot of interviews I've done. Hell, it doesn't even work 60% of the time. But when someone won't join because of the war, there isn't much you can do. You can't make the war go away, you can't make them not eligible to go to war, rather than tap dance around it I prefer to confront it head on. Honestly, if they're not willing to go into the Army accepting that they're going to have to go into combat, then maybe we should think twice about whether we'd want that person there with us. But that's just me.

Looking through that huge, drawn out spiel, if you're the producer of a news story about recruiters lying to applicants, and you're sending someone in undercover to pose as an applicant, do you think you can get a couple juicy quotes to show on camera?
It is possible you might not go to Iraq. I myself have never deployed and I've been in the Army Reserve for 12 years. There are a number of people, even this long after 9-11, who haven't deployed.
A five minute speech addressing an applicant's concerns about going to Iraq, boiled down to a three line quote that's the perfect lead for a story about recruiters lying about the risks of service.

I like John Stossel, but the ambush-investigative journalist style has degraded what was once an important profession.

I mentioned it yesterday, and I've expanded on it today. There is a huge, missed, unreported on story that an "reporter" interested in actually "reporting" should be working on. Instead it's far easier and juicier for a bunch of network affiliates to send young-looking interns into recruiting stations trying to get something on tape. There will be no consideration given to how long it took to get "the quote". The "Eye 5 Gotcha Team" isn't going to say they had to visit 15 recruiting stations in two states and speak with 38 recruiters to find one guy who gave the quote they were looking for. They're also not going to go into how their intern had to say she'd be ready to join if only she didn't have to go to Iraq. It's their report. They're going to put it out how they want to.

If they're sending a reporter in undercover to get proof of recruiters doing the wrong thing, do you honestly believe they're going provide an accurate accounting of what it took to get that? These are five minute pieces during the evening news. And three of those minutes are taken up by the reporter talking about how "shocking" the behavior is. That leaves two minutes for evidence and rebuttal. And the rebuttal will consist of a 25 second quote about how it's being investigated. Despite the fact the interview with the "recruiting official" was a half hour affair complete with background notes and PowerPoint slides.

I spent some time, very little time, studying journalism in college. I met the people who are in the newsrooms now making these decisions. I know what they're after and what they'll do to get it. I'm not as deep in as Jeff Jarvis, but these are people with a mission. And it's a mission they're going to box.

Anyways, I don't care that people are out there trying to make recruiters look bad. That's been going on for as long as I can remember. I do care about when us recruiters make it easier for them to do so, or when they go out of their way to find a way to make us look bad.

In a SFC B front I managed to get one of the prior service folks I'd mentioned earlier to sign, and the other scheduled for later this month. I've also got a grad who's going to inspire another post later on lined up. Should be fun.

Like mana from heaven

This morning I'm going to be proctoring an ASVAB at one of our local schools. It's usually a decent enough time. We're not allowed to activly recruit during these tests, but if someone breaks their pencil lead I'll be there with an Army pencil to hand them.

The ASVAB can be a recruiter's dream. It's a list with name, age, phone number, future plans, and their test scores. How someone wearing a recruiter badge cannot view this list as a gift from Heaven is beyond me. It makes your job so much easier when you already know someone's line scores.

Last week was pretty damned annoying. I had two prior service folks who were supposed to join, and didn't. One read his work schedule wrong and didn't have this past processing saturday off. The other said he was ready to go, but when the time came to make the choice he started to waffle. So now I have to work on getting the first one squared away, and the second one to sit down and tell me what the hell is going on. However, I do have a grad who said he's good to go this week. If his test scores are in the system I'll be FSR2ing him today to have him on the floor on Thursday.

Right this second the station has actually overproduced on the Reserve side, and the company is YTD for the Reserve. I know a low mission has been a big reason for this, but I don't make the mission. However I need to get these people in for us to remain on this path. It's terribly frustrating to be so close to closing out your mission for the month, and have it all die away.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

With a bang

I've spent the better part of the past three weeks dealing with a malaise about writing. I'm looking through my post history and there have been about a dozen post started and stopped before ever finishing. Some of them are nothing more than a couple words about how I'm not in the mood to write something. Others are about a plethora of things that just stopped interesting me after the first three paragraphs and seven "anyways".

I'd like to say that something grand and inspiring happened that's made me resume writing, but nothing has. Honestly, even this post, assuming it survives long enough to make it to "publish" doesn't represent a reopening of my semi-consistent drivel, but you know what? It's time for me to get back into plugging away, writing about my often repetitve work life.

First let me address something that I'd said a short while ago, and an event that marked the decline in my desire to write. I'd written a post that cast myself in an unflattering light, and more importantly other people with whom I work were in the same light. I don't care about what the post said about me. Hell, I'm the one who wrote it so even if I did care it's not like there's anyone but myself to blame. However when I dragged someone else into the spotlight, someone who didn't deserve the attention, that was a tough moment.

This website isn't read by a whole lot of people. Even at my "peak" there aren't more than a dozen or so folks who check in on this. Two of these people I'm related to by blood or marriage, which leaves about 10 other people who read what I write. Included in these 10 are Soldiers in my chain of command. It's part of their responsibility to read what I post because, well, I'm a Soldier, I'm in the Army, and I'm putting things out into the world that, regardless of my disclaimers, are still put into the world to be read, quoted, etc. I've never been told to withdraw a comment, and I've never been reprimanded for the content of the site. I could get paranoid and adjust my writing to bland platitudes about nothing in particular, but that doesn't interest me, and should I ever get to that point I'd just shut the whole thing down rather than put out a sub-standard version of an already pretty poor product.

Looking back at my history I've been running this thing for over a year and a half. Much of my tour to this point has been covered on this here website. I've seen other recruiter blogs come and go. The recruiters who were here before me have PCS'd back into the Army, and the next generation have reported for duty. I've read the stories of people who have processing for the military in all different services. I've read about them shipping, I've read about their time at training, I've read about their successes and setbacks.

My email box is filled with messages from leads, prospects, applicants, Future Soldiers, Soldiers, fellow recruiters, and those who support all of us. People asking questions about the Army. Wondering if MEPS always loses paperwork (no, just can seem that way), or when their daughter will be able to call them (she won't have a lot of time during the week, but she should have the time on Sunday if she does everything else she needs to. If you speak with her tell her to write you more letters, you have to send mail to receive it). I've had a couple of haters too, some of which were sent by people who I'm guessing are very petty and don't like to use spellcheck.

This is not something I do for recognition or publicity. I'd originally, long long ago, started with a blog I titled "Adventures of a Reluctant Recruiter". It's long since been deleted. I started it the day I got the call that I'd been detailed. I was about 2/3s into a six pack of Sam Adams when I started and the blog didn't survive the first week of recruiting school. It was Jack Army who got me motivated enough to try again, and then provided that first link which kept me going.

It's weird, going through the archives I've spent a lot, a lot, of words talking about how much recruiting can suck. And yet my email contains many messages from people undaunted by the process, who are eager to begin and just looking for validation that the processing doesn't reflect the reality of the Army. I'd like to think that maybe, just maybe, one of those people were to keep up the process by reading someone else getting just as upset about something "downtown" as they were. Who knows if that ever happens though.

**I just got a call from SSG Tomas. He's playing a trivia game tonight and he wanted to give me a head's up that I'm expected to spent time on Google finding answers for him. He also demanded that I write about it. If you were playing a trivia game somewhere in Phoenix, and one of your opponents kept yelling into his phone, that's because he was calling me.**

I enjoy taking the time to put my thoughts into words. Even if they're dull thoughts and even duller words. This is something I'm going to keep doing because it's enjoyable, and I think even beneficial. The story of military recruiting, and Army recruiting in particular, is mostly told only through the media. And it's a story that only gets out when a juicy soundbite is available. No matter how many recruiters do the right thing and work hard to put fully qualified people into the Army, the story always becomes "recruiters lie".

At this time it seems that recruiting is succeeding. The mission is achievable and, I think, many commands are on track to get it done this year. This is an amazing story. We're moving towards the sixth year of active, world-wide combat using an all-volunteer force. Not a day goes by where there isn't a story about a servicemember dying in combat. There are multiple, slick, well-funded campaigns designed to discourage enlistment into the armed forces. Major celebrity figures speak constantly about how wrong the actions being done by our armed forces are. And yet through all that, 10s of thousands of people volunteer to serve. Some of whom work themselves ragged trying to get into that uniform.

Is that a story that gets told?

Or does the local network affiliate send fake prospects into the recruiting station wearing a wire and a camera trying to catch a juicy quote?

Anyways, it's late, I'm expecting a call from SSG Tomas and I probably have to help SGT Cheeks kill some gnolls in Blackburrow.

Missed y'all.

Friday, January 05, 2007

On the road again

Hitting the road yet again. I'll be making another trip to the northwest corner of the Grand Canyon State. I found a better place to stop for coffee this time around though so hopefully I won't have to brillo-pad the taste out of my mouth this time.

A bit of work has actually paid off for me as it appears I'll be able to put a GA in for next week. This is a good thing on two fronts. One, it will get the station to its year-to-date mission for the Reserve. Two, it will give me two GAs for the month which is worth some decent points, and it will pay me $100. Yay for submarine pay! As much as I can be motivated by greed it still doesn't sit right with me to get paid even more for this stuff.

It's a processing Saturday so I'll be clocking in tomorrow as well. Hope everyone has a good weekend.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Well, it's now 2007. It will be about a week before I'll stop dating forms with 2006. I can't wait for it to happen with a 2807 on someone hitting the floor.

I'll be doing a bit of traveling tomorrow. Going to be going to Flagstaff for an appointment. The person seems pretty interested (otherwise I wouldn't be making the trip on a Wednesday). This is the sort of thing which will jack my PMS for the week. Of course it's a short week so my production will already be screwed.

The holidays were a lot of fun. Mrs SFC B. and I rung in the New Year with Mrs. and SSG Tomas. Turns out there are a lot of people in Phoenix who like Third Eye Blind. Who knew? Not me.

I've added a couple things to the site that appeal to me. One, in my Ego Stroking area you'll find a link to my character in Everquest 2. If there is someone reading this who also plays feel free to shoot me a tell or send me some mail. SSG George, SSG Tomas, and SGT WWW also have toons in the game.

Now, my second one requires a bit of disclosure. I'm a huge Transformers fan dating back to when my dad taught me how to make Jazz transform on a Christmas Morning almost two decades ago. In that spirit I've added a link to the new Transformers movie coming out. I did register my website w/ the Transformers Movie folks and as a result I have a "special" link that will track people I send to their site. As near as I can tell this means nothing other than I get a ranking in their referrer logs. No money, nothing like that. But I'm not well known for reading fine print so if there is something I miss where this results in more than just an ego boost for me I want to put it out there. The non-affiliated link is here.

Anyways, I hope everyone had an awesome 2006 and that 2007 is even better.