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.


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