Monday, May 14, 2007


Among my handful of readers there are a couple members of the battalion staff as well as my chain of command to the battalion level. That makes it a bit difficult to always be as open as I'd like. Taking out my frustrations on the ones and zeros isn't always feasible because, well, few things can make a bad mood worse than a phone call from someone in your rating chain asking why you're in a bad mood.

It doesn't take a genius though to figure out what brings out a foul mood in a recruiter. It's the (quasi) end of the month and, well, I'm on a nut. Again. I'm at a net zero for the past three months. Not a fun place to be. I'm working on my third year out here. I should be cruising, but I'm not. Peaks and valleys... peaks and valleys... and I'm in the Grand Canyon.

Today was not a fun day. Not at all.

As I was riding home from work a white Tahoe with huge tires flew out of a side street. It barely stopped before it became a wall into which my motorcycle would thrown me. As I passed it I thought for a second "Man, I wish that the hood had just jutted out enough that I could have nailed it." I've gone over the hood of a car before. It hurts but as long as there is nothing in front of you when you land, you'll be able to walk away with a few broken bones. Nothing terrible. Had that horrible thing happened, I'd have probably been jacked up enough to get a day or two in the hospital, maybe some surgery to fix a bone or something. In short, I'd have gotten some time away from recruiting. No, I'm not thinking of killing myself (no, you can't have my stereo), and I pushed that thought out of my mind as soon as I realized I'd thought it, but it was there for the fleetingest of moments.

Some people like hearing about what happens during a recruiter's day (you sickos). In this recruiter's day I thought about how nice a period of convalescent leave would be. I assure you I'm not the only recruiter to come away from a potentially harmful situation thinking "Man, I wish that did happen, it would have gotten me a week off". Of course, with my luck, I'd have to do P1 from my hospital bed and I'd better come up with an AMEDD referral while I'm there.

Don't worry folks. I'm simply blathering. I owe too much on my motorcycle to think about putting it on the ground or around a tree.

Of course today was made all the worse by SGT Guardsman letting me know he's done with recruiting and going back to the non-recruiting world. This is my Two Minute Hate for Guardsman.



Anyways. Dropped off my applicant this morning. Went to a school visit. Got a call at noon saying my applicant was done. Apparently, when filing out the 2807-2 the question "Have you ever had a..." is asked differently on the 2807-1. So, of course, when the applicant filled out this particular question with me on the Dash 2, it's answered "No". But when they went downtown something about how it was asked made them rethink the issue and pop to having to need a biopsy done.

Needless to say the results of the biopsy were clear, no cancer, but now I need to have three clear biopsies for the applicant. That should take about... oh... three months to get done.


It is a situation like this which makes me feel bad about my condemnation of those from Tennessee.

If my applicant had revealed this issue to me before hand, I'd have found myself in something of a dilama. The applicant does not have cancer. The biopsy report I read said they're clear, and the report from the doctor implies that there is little threat of it actually becoming cancerous because of a lack of family history or whatever. Basically, it was "one of those things". Had this applicant revealed this to me, and now that I know what will be required to enlist this person, the temptation to tell them to just shut-up about it would have been great. I like to think I'm NCO enough to have done the right thing, but sitting on a nut, with no time left in the month, I'm not so sure.

This is an applicant who went from a slam-bam GA to a minimum three month delay, all on the basis of over thinking a question. And people wonder why recruiters will sometimes tell a kid to shut-up. It doesn't excuse it, but I can empathize.

When I got home from the office tonight I went out for a run, and as I ran I had all sorts of weird thoughts about stuff to write about. Nothing which was really solid enough to survive me getting a drink of water when I was done. Unfortunatly for you dear reader, I remember enough of them to do a free-flowing, what-the-hell type post where I cover a bunch of thoughts in the hope that quantity will have a quality.

I've been thinking about what the possible future of the Army and its recruiting could be. Because Lord knows the person who should be thinking about the future of Army Recruiting is the detailed recruiter who will be getting a counseling statement saying that he's going to receive an other than honorable discharge because he's an unmotivated recruiter who has failed in the most basic of recruiting tasks and is a disgrace to everything carbon-based (I exaggerate [a little]).

Currently there are two direct financial incentives available for people to recruit. The referral bonus and the Recruiter Incentive Pay. There is also the Special Duty Assignment Pay which is paid to recruiting personnel to, supposedly, compensate for the additional stresses and expenses a recruiter will incur during the month (however if you talk to career recruiter types they seem to think that the SDAP is a bonus you get for recruiting people as well).

As a taxpayer I find myself very unhappy with seeing my tax dollars go towards the Referral Bonus and RIP. I hate to be the dick who complains about this, but I'm honestly curious what the benefit is here. $2,000 referral bonuses and the potential for RIP payments of several thousand dollars to individual recruiters makes me curious about the return on investment for these programs. I have no idea how many people have been enlisted as a result of the Referral Bonus program. But I find myself curious how many of those people joined as a direct result of the referral. I understand the motivation behind the referral bonus, by giving Soldiers a cash incentive to talk with their friends (they don't get paid for family) that's another influencer urging this person to enlist. I suppose that they have a greater incentive to ship and complete training. But let's be open here, how many of those people referred would have joined anyways?

I've said it before, people don't decide to join the Army because of the actions of a recruiter. If that was the case no one would ever join roll a nut. A person has to want to join the Army. I don't have mind control powers. I'm not willing to lie and tell someone they can get any job they want, or they will never be deployed, or any of the others things people may or may not say to overcome objections. I stand by my opinion that if I have to browbeat someone into wanting to enlist, then they're someone who doesn't want it enough. It's like dragging a horse to water, or some other analogy.

So, how many of the people who the Army paid $2,000 to recruit, did we not actually have to spend that money on? How many were going to enlist anyway, and someone just happened to find them before the recruiter did? I don't know if there is a way to answer that question, or if it's even been asked.

I bring up that point to bring up another.

When I received my previous counseling it was suggested to me that, should USAREC fail to meet mission, then the Army was going to be broken and all sorts of bad things would happen. I didn't necessarily disagree with that statement, but I pointed out that the government has a way to remedy any critical shortfall in recruiting numbers. Have I gone all Charlie Rangel and suggested that we should grab em off the street? No. However to suggest that a signifigant shortfall in recruiting isn't something that couldn't be fixed some other way was inaccurate. The response to my response was less than warm though. But it is something to which I've given some thought.

Obviously we prefer a volunteer force, and I don't like the thought of undoing the success that the Army has built on the eagerness of motivated citizens. However I'm always interested in ways to save me money.

I'd be curious about the feasibility of reducing, or even eliminating, USAREC all together and simply putting the burden on recruiting onto the Army as a whole. Would it really be impossible to shift from requiring every recruiter to put in two per month to requiring every Soldier to put in one a year?

Slog through this with me, I thought of this while running so my brain was starved for blood.

There are about 500,000 Soldiers in the active Army. Assume half of that are not in the US, we've got 250,000. Even with a success rate of less than half, you could get the 100,000 the Army would need this year through recruiting. The specific mechanics of how this would work would need some serious thought, which I haven't done, but I think there's potential there. And as a taxpayer removing the need for a referral bonus (it's now a requirement), RIP (no recruiters to give the incentive to), and SDAP (again, no recruiters) would allow that money to possibly be better spent. Plus, with every Soldier being a recruiter, there's no need for the expensive office space (those prime location mall offices aren't cheap) and a fleet of several thousand late model cars (don't get me started on the $60,000 H3s).

Maybe this idea sounds nutsor far out, but I think it, or something like it, is coming.

Every conference I've attended has featured some USAREC/USAAC guy giving a speech about the future of recruiting. How the applicant will do more and more of the porcess for themselves. That, eventually, they'll complete their packet online, reserve their own job, schedule their own processing, and it will all be done without recruiters. The career recruiters in these briefings tend to scoff, or at least comment how recruiters will never not be needed, but I'm sure that a lot of what said had been said before back when Cavalry officers were first briefed about the coming automobile and saw their first tanks.

Of course I'm probably wrong.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Case in Point

This morning I checked my Gmail account and saw that someone had sent me a link to a story out of Tennessee where some recruiters were caught on tape saying stupid things.

The usual caveats apply. These were appointments conducted and there was a lot more said during the coversations that just the snippets we see excerpted for shock value. However the simple fact is that, as a recruiter, you shouldn't be saying the things these recruiters were saying. As soon as I saw the title of the story on the TV station's web page I knew that Rules #2 and #6 had been broken.

In my original "Advice" column I suggested that the recruiter with the "Wango Tango" email should have just shut-up at "You're unqualified." This should apply equally to someone DQ'd for med. The kid tells you "You know, I'm currently on Zoloft," the chances of something going horribly wrong for you have increased greatly. If an otherwise fully qualified applicant walks in to the station and coughs up a medical issue, and it's an issue that is going to keep them disqualified, suck it up and not process the kid. He's not going to be qualified. If he's taking the meds it's for a reason. That seemingly well adjusted kid you're talking to is "well-adjusted" because of the medication. When you remove that, who knows what's going to happen.

Here are the possible scenarios for you when Mr. Zoloft walks in:

1. You tell him he's DQ'd until he's got a doctor's note saying he's been off the drugs for a year, and it's still going to be a med waiver. Most likely outcome of this: You never see the kid again. How this affects you, the recruiter: It's an appointment made and conducted and that has value.

2. You tell him to shut-up about it. Most likely outcome of this: He coughs to the meds on the floor. How this affects you, the recruiter: You're now under scrutinity. If this is a first offense it will likely just be a "bad boy, pre-qual better" thing. If you've done this before, it's possibly going to get you investigated. This is not fun. Or, as you can see in this example, the "kid" (he was a 30 year old) did shut-up about it, enlisted, and blew his head off. Those sorts of things tend to cause ESD too look into your activities. This is not fun. Even assuming you manage to get the kid through MEPS, and into Basic, and he graduates, do you really want to have been responsible for putting a new Soldier in who can only maintain an even keel through the secret use of medication?

Believe me I know the temptation of a quick contract. While I'm still a pup in the recruiting world, I'm not a new jack. I've put a couple people in. I've had good months. I've had bad months. I've had "Yes First Sergeant. You're right First Sergeant. I'm a terrible recruiter and a failure as a human being" months. I know how tempting it is to just tell the kid to "shut-up".

Unfortunatly we don't recruit in the world in which many of our instructors at ARC recruited. Too many agencies release law violations to the FBI, and the checks come back in under three days. The docs are too good at getting people to reveal their medical past because the docs know that no one in this modern world goes through life with straight "no" on their 2807. Too many parents are willing to have their kids medicated. The use of inhalers to help with childhood congestion is greater than before. And to top it all off between minicameras, cell phones, and a 24 hours news cycle that devours controversy, we in the recruiting world are lined up behind the 8, 9, and 10 balls. Oh, and don't forget that ARISS retains a record of every change you make to a record when you replicate.

Recruiting is a hard enough slog as it is. We're recruiting in a strong economy, during a period of extended combat, in an enviroment where, depending on how the polling question is asked, a majority of the country doesn't support the war being fought. And we're supposed to recruit kids who watch Green Day on MTV singing about American Idiots, see a daily update on the number of people killed in Iraq or Afghanistan, and then go to bed with Jon Stewart sardonically questioning that whole "terrorists want to kill us" thing.

If we're lucky we only have to recruit for three years and then return to the Army with our rank equal to or greater than we started, our blood pressure slightly elevated, a new appreciation for CTT, and our integrity not in tatters (it is going to be a little frayed. As was explained to me in Recruiting School "you can live in the gray, just never go into the black"). Self-inflicted gun shot wounds like "No, you don't have to list that," is just adding to your misery. Which dovetails nicely into my next piece of advice.

Let me paint a word picture for you.

You're a recruiter.

Stop screaming in terror you wuss.

You're a recruiter. You're in the office calling off a list and Johnny Bigsmile walks in. You get your hooks into him before anyone else in the officer realizes a walk-in just happened. He's sitting at your desk and you go through the motions. He takes the EST and comes up with a 78. He's got no law, no med, and you start in on the features and benefits. His eyes light up when you mention the awe-inspiring power of the Abrams. He wants to join and become a 19K. At this point the conversation gets serious. You break out your planning guide and look at the calendar. The kid can't get off until Friday and Saturday, this is perfect. It gives you time to prepare the packet, get him projected, and it's a Saturday processing. You can have a GA in three days. The Station Commander will get off your back. You might get RIP. Sweet!

You're asking him questions are you input his data into ARISS. While you're working he's got a 2807 (the medial pre-screen). You notice him hesitating.

Uh oh.

"So, Johnny, what's up?" you ask him.

"Well, this question here. It asks if I've ever seen a psychologist."

Double uh oh.

At this point you probe. Turns out Johnny is currently on meds for some condition. He says it's "nothing serious", but you're not so sure.

"Johnny, that form says you need to put everything there, and if you put anything down on that form it's possible it will keep you from enlisting," you tell him.

**Although I'm sure some will read that and be like "OMG! SFC B IS TELLING HIM TO LIE!", I'm not. Listen, we get people who think that every cough is an indicator of pnenomia and every sneeze indicates that they're allergic to air. Before some applicant gets himself DQ'd because he once got a bad headache 10 years ago and has never had anything like that again, I want to make sure they understand what they're putting down on that form. I care too much about my wife and my rank to put either at risk for something I can get waived.**

"So, you're telling me to lie about this medication?" is what Johnny asks you.

At this point in time you need to, clearly, very clearly, state that he is disqualified from the service/will require documentation from his doctor/ need a med waiver.

Think about this for a second. This walk-in, who you've never met before in your life, has just presented you with a career-altering choice. I don't care how hot to join this kid is. I don't care how deep on a nut I am. I don't care about any of that. In this day and age, with multiple "exclusives" across the country featuring grainy video of recruiters saying stupid things, if it's too good to be true, it is.

I am yet to see one of these "hidden camera" things which didn't feature a statement like "So you're telling me to..." followed by something incriminating. That's their "line". It's a HUGE warning to you, and you ignore it at your peril. Think about it this way: whatever you say in response to that question is what will be the teaser trailer on the evening news. This isn't a gray area. Assume that person is recording you. Whether it's press, some punk kid, or an investigator from the recruiting command. It's a trap and if you say anything other than "Sorry, you're DQ'd," then you're going to be hearing about it. And even if it's NOT a trap, you're still not going to set yourself up for later ruin when the punk opens his mouth to doc and happily writes a statement for the XO.

I'm here for you.

How much not fun would it be to get a phone call like this "The Battalion Commander was just interviewed by CBS. They have you on video saying something stupid."? Can you imagine how much it must suck to be the recruiter on tape saying "We had someone sneak their drugs into Basic."? That's not a receipe for a happy evening. I can't even think of a way to spin that so it doesn't sound horrible. At that point your best option is to probably hope for an Article 15.

I'd love to be able to pick apart the story from WTVF. But whatever hyperbole they have in highlighting the "SEVERE PENALITIES" from the 2807 is far outdone by the fact that there is practically no way that "Me and you are the only ones who know it... almost like, don't ask, don't tell. You don't tell," isn't exactly what it sounds like.

Rereading this I can't help but feel like I'm being too harsh. Who am I to judge? I'm a lowly field recruiter half a country away. I don't have authority over my own desk, so who am I to say that what is in front of my eyes is wrong? I haven't seen anything more than you have. I've seen the same videos, read the same reporting, and my hip-pocket judgement is that those guys were in the wrong. Barring a Borat-like "NOT" being edited out of the video, there really isn't a different take though.

While those highlighted by a local news team's investigative team face a likely unhappy future, the rest of us can learn from their mistake. Take note of the phrase "So you're telling me I don't need to...". Your walk-in or call-in says that, stop. Stop right there. I'm super serial guys. Stop. Much like the poor Wango-Tango dance recruiter, you're about to do or say something stupid and/or incriminating. Choose your next words very carefully. If a grainy video is going to be shown to your Battalion Commander, wouldn't you prefer it to be the B-Roll stuff of you saying "Sorry man, I'm not telling you that. I'm telling you you're disqualified. Thank you for your interest. I hope you have a great Army day. And do you know anyone else who might be interested?"

It's your choice.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

New Recruiter Blogger and a Sock Puppet

I've been very lax in updating my blog roll with new recruiters who have taken the step to register for Blogger. There is one new one, yet another Guard dude, who Darth Commando led to me. Darth Commando also claims that another Station Commander has started a blog. However since the first post I read was a post praising Darth Commando, I'm pretty sure this one is a sock puppet of Darth Commando's. No one likes Darth Commando, and no one would ever praise him for anything. Unless they were complimenting him on how quickly he can make an innocent recruiter cry. This is all part of some evil station commander plot to generate additional traffic for his site.

I'm on to you, you Jawa torturer. I'm on to you!