The Indiana Army National Guard was officially established in 1846 in support of the Mexican-American War and has been present at every military engagement since. There are three primary units that make up the Indiana Army National Guard: the 38th Infantry Division, the 219th Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, and the 76th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. In total, there are over 12,000 soldiers serving the great state of Indiana in every Military Occupational Skill (MOS) available. In addition, there are two major units in the Air National Guard that serve the state in a joint effort to help protect and defend not only the great state of Indiana, but also the United States of America.
Military life is not easy. It is not a typical nine-to-five job. There are no normal days. It is an extremely dangerous profession where it is not only your life that hangs in the balance of your decisions but others as well. There are many faces of a soldier. You are a weapon, a defender, a friend and a deadly enemy. You have to be able to make decisions quickly without receiving much information. You must lead soldiers while being led. The ability to give lawful orders and have them executed in precision efficiency is equally important to follow orders in the same fashion. Probably the worst part of the job is the amount of time that is usually required to be spent away from your loved ones. Most military deployments are for the Army is one year but you are actually will be gone for at least 15 months.
Thankfully, modern technology allows soldiers to stay in contact with family members but saying I love you through Skype does not make up for missing your little boy’s first homerun or your daughter’s first crush. And although I was very grateful for the computer, I can personally say that it does not even come close to replacing my wonderful wife’s loving arms. If that is not enough, there always seems to be somebody that wants to kill you. These are some of the reasons why there is a very high turnover rate in the military. These life or death scenarios and other discouraging events may seem exciting at first, but do not translate well as the soldier begins to mature and add family members. As a result, many do not reenlist after their initial contract expires. So how does the Army refill its gaping holes left by attrition? That is where the Indiana Army National Guard recruiter enters the mix. Problem Statement
There probably is no more difficult job in the military than that of the recruiter. Long hours, bad reputations and thankless performance are just a few of the things that plague the position. I remember on the first day of Recruiting School at Camp Robinson, Arkansas, the Commandant of the school came in and asked us how many of us were married. Out of the 300 or so soldiers in the room, roughly half of us raised our hands. He went on to state that by the end of our tour, a third of us would be divorced. Although I had already performed the duties of a recruiter for two months prior going to school, it was then and there that I realized how difficult this job was going to be.
How can we ease the stress levels and the burden on the recruiters without compromising the mission? That seems to be the million dollar question. Literature Review
1. Tan, M. (December 5, 2011). Garnett News Service. In Army recruiters raise bar as drawdown nears. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from http://www.lexisnexis.com.proxy.devry.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/.
This website discusses the increased difficulties in enlisting into the military. Qualifications do have a tendency to change regularly depending upon the overall strength of the National Guard. The closer to the authorized number, the tougher it is to get in. Lately, however, the restrictions have been fairly constant. There are two main reasons for this. First, the strength of the military historically is opposite of the condition of the economy. If the economy is weak, such as it is now, more people look to the military for employment. Second, the Army has been tasked to reduce its force by nearly 50,000. Simply put, no new bodies are needed so only the best are accepted.
Unfortunately, the number of recruiters or their assigned mission has not changed in the last seven years. There is the same number of recruiters in the field today as there was in 2005. They have to put in the same number of people today as they did in 2005. One does not need an advanced degree to see the difficulties in this undertaking. 2. O’Harrow Jr. R. (March 14, 2012). The Washington Post. In Recruiters for Army Guard, Reserve suspected of fraud. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from
Unfortunately, impossible tasks lead some people to do unspeakable or illegal things. The National Guard has a program that helps the every-day soldier earn some money by recruiting an individual. Each person they bring in earns them $2,000.00. Recruiters and those in the Recruiting Command are ineligible for this program. This report discusses what happens when the line is crossed. From the moment the program was implemented, there were problems. It is very difficult to catch those who act unethical. Although these individuals were caught, many are not.
While in the command, I witnessed this firsthand several times. One of the ways that fraud occurs is to not disclose pertinent information. Hiding information regarding health, legal issues or family situations is one way for these people to collect money that is not owed to them. Obviously, this practice is as old as the military. This program, however, has involved people who would not normally be a part of the cover up. 3. Bulach, B.A.(May 3, 2007). Government Funded Technical Reports. In Validation of the Military Recruiter Stress Scale (MRSS). Retrieved August 10, 2012, from http://ntis.library.gatech.edu/handle/123456789/9327?show=full.
This is a remarkable report that goes into great detail the stresses that a military recruiter faces. I remember taking part of this survey when I was a recruiter and its findings are fascinating. It takes into account all aspects in the daily life of a recruiter from hours worked, marital status, pay, etc. The end result was used to describe the incredible stresses that these individuals endure every day. It was also submitted to every branch of service to help them better understand the problems that are running rampant in the ranks because of the stresses.
The sad part is that it does not appear this warning shot was taken very seriously by the National Guard. There has been hardly any improvement in the life of a recruiter as is indicated by the loyalty of a recruiter to the command. “Burnout” is a serious issue with recruiters who are not given proper time to recharge their batteries. 4. Castro, Tony. (November 18, 2009). The Daily News of Los Angeles. In ECONOMY SPURS JUMP IN RECRUITS. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from
This is an article that discusses how good recruiting can be near the beginning of an economic downturn. Quotas were exceeded all across the country for a short period of time. Unfortunately, this is only a short trend. Quick influxes of recruits results in open ranks filling very quickly which leads to difficulties in recruiting once again.
The worst part is that for this short period, even the average recruiter looks great. It takes very little effort when all the incentives to join given during times of recruiting hardship are there when everybody wants to join. It is not unusual for an individual to be at 300% mission. When the restrictions start being put in place, though, inevitably the numbers will start to fall. The leadership, however, do not want to hear how difficult it is to “put people in boots”. They are accustomed to big numbers. 5. Mason, B. (August 23, 2012). PR Newswire. In Suicide is now the most common form of death in the Army according to a new study released last week.; Is the Stress Pandemic affecting the military suicide rate?. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from http://www.lexisnexis.com.proxy.devry.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/.
Although not specifically related to military recruiting, I found it important to include this article is this paper. Suicide in the military is at an all-time high and it has oozed into the recruiting ranks as well. I personally knew one person and knew of another that resulted to this final solution as a way to end their problems. Many reasons that can cause people to be suicidal are found in recruiting: marital problems, financial hardship, poor job performance, etc.
I think this is the key reason the Indiana Army National Guard needs to rethink its requirements for the recruiters. This is a very demanding and extremely difficult profession. The highs can be astronomical, but the lows can be devastating. It is no rare to be considered a hero one month and a zero the very next month. 6. Stewman, T. (April 26, 2012). Defense Department Documents and Publications. In Orientation course helps Marine spouses thrive on recruiting duty. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from
This is a wonderful effort to help the family members of recruiters. When discussing stress to military recruiters, what is often ignored is the stress the family members suffer. Some, including me, believe it is our loved ones that have the toughest job in the military. Not only do they have to endure the hardships you are going through, but they have to take care of the kids, the house, the bills and everything else on top of that. Many of these miracle workers also have a job, as well.
What this program does is to help them understand a little bit about what it is like to be a recruiter and how they can help their spouse meet his or her goals. That was one thing that made me successful when I recruited. I tried my best to include them in the process. Many of my recruits knew my kids and wife and in a way were “adopted” into our family. I felt it was not only important in keeping our bonds strong, it helped in my recruiting process. It showed the recruits that I was a normal person with a family. We faced the same problems as they did. Analysis
So we now have the background of the Indiana Army National Guard, the problem that faces the recruiting command and have also looked at the literary resources used for this paper. It is time to dig a little deeper into what these difficulties are and how they impact the individuals. There are three main reasons that frame the challenges facing recruiters today. * Entrance Requirements
Requirements for joining the military are much more stringent today than they have ever been. Gone are the days when somebody can walk into a recruiting office and the next day ship off to boot camp. One of my first enlistments was a seventeen year old girl. She was a high school dropout with two kids. She also had a couple of minor law violations. Within a week, she was given the job she wanted, a $20,000 bonus, the GI Bill, the GI Bill Kicker and the opportunity to get her GED through the military. Today she would not stand a chance in joining any branch of the military.
The first literary review that I mentioned discusses this. Over time, restrictions were implemented. ASVAB scores were raised, medical conditions that were no problem before are now disqualifiers, legal issues that used be considered minor are not waverable. Also, parenthood is looked at a lot closer. Single parents are more difficult to enlist. Even if you are married, if your spouse is currently in the military, that is a disqualifier.
I spoke with Command Sergeant Major David Fulkerson regarding these restrictions. He is the Senior Enlisted Advisor for the Indiana Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command. He, too, understands the difficulties today’s recruiters face. “When I recruited, if they had two arms and legs with half a brain, you enlisted them,” he stated. “Today, if they spit on the sidewalk in the third grade, forget it. We will only take the best. We don’t want people who have a history of medical or legal problems. Studies show that these individuals will continue to struggle in a military environment.” * Reduced Incentives
Gone also are the days of large bonuses, lucrative student loan repayment plans and extra money for college. Technically, they are not gone but they are much more difficult to obtain. In 2005, every single person that enlisted in the Indiana Army National Guard received a $20,000 bonus. They were also received the GI Bill and GI Bill Kicker, which came to about $550.00 (tax-free) a month for a full time student. On top of that, they were eligible for the Student Loan Repayment Plan. This plan paid back up to $50,000 of your student loans.
Today, very few people are eligible for these incentives. Your ASVAB score, the MOS you select, and the state’s current strength are just a few factors that determine your eligibility. Two weeks ago, I spoke with Master Sergeant Jeff Platt. He is the Senior Liaison at the Military Entrance Processing Station in Indianapolis and he is responsible for enlisting the applicants the recruiters find. His analysis of the situation is astounding. “The other day, we had 47 people on the floor that was here to enlist. Of the 47, 24 were disqualified for medical or legal issues. Of the remaining 23, only two received incentives.” What makes it even harder for recruiters is that they do not know what the requirements are to get incentives. According to Master Sergeant Platt, “the requirements change every minute. We do not know ourselves until we put the guy in the system.
The fourth literary review describes why this is happening. A couple of years ago, the sinking economy helped the military grow exponentially. There are no open slots, no open MOS training seats. It is simple supply and demand where the supply has greatly out grown the demand. Since most enlistments are for six years, the earliest this trend can be expected to be fixed is around 2015. * No change in the requirements of the recruiter
One of the best analogies that I heard was that of Sergeant First Class Mike Wilson. Sergeant Wilson is a recruiter in Greenwood, Indiana, and has been a recruiter for several years. “Imagine you and 99 other people are fishing at a lake that has been stocked with 10,000 fish. At first, it is great. There is enough fish for everybody. But over time, even with breeding, the fish will disappear. You either need to restock the lake or remove some of the people. Only a fool will think it will always be fantastic fishing. And yet that is where we are today.” It does sound simple but for some reason the command does not see it this way. Sergeant Major Fulkerson explains. “It is harder but there are plenty of people that can join the Guard. They are just more difficult to find. If that means that the recruiter needs to work longer hours or perhaps weekends, then so be it.” My third literary review proves, though, that this may be detrimental to not only the recruiter, but also to the command. When you are in any type of sales position, the first rule for a successful career is to believe in what you are selling. This applies to the military more than anything else. They simply do not sell a product, they are selling a lifestyle. And in the end, it may cost you your life. You must believe that the Army National Guard is great and just and that is difficult when you hate it. Solutions
As with any problem, there are solutions and this is no different. Many times, however, solutions can create further problems. The key to problem solving is to not only solve the current problems but to prevent new ones from popping up. The problems that plague military recruiting are not unique in that aspect. How do you ease the stress without compromising the mission? There are several avenues that can be taken but three standout. * Reduce the mission
Currently, each recruiter in the Indiana Army National Guard is on a mission for two enlistments per month, 24 per year. It has been that way since 2003. You do receive a mission adjustment if you are absent for at least seven days but other than that, that is what you owe. As stated earlier in the literary review, it was relatively easy to make that mission a few years ago but not today. Initially, I wanted to say to shut it down for a specified period. This would allow the recruiters to catch their breath and heal their wounds. It would also allow them to do “soldierly” things, as well. Many have not gone to the firing range in several years. They could also coordinate with a unit to participate in a field exercise. Perhaps they could take extended leave and rebuild the family unit. Sergeant Major Fulkerson, however, dispelled that notion. “We cannot shut the machine down completely. To do so would be detrimental to the Guard. We need the constant influx of new blood.” That is hard to argue so I would propose reducing that to two a quarter, and ten a year. Yes, I know my math does not add up but I figure the reduced numbers would allow an extra couple over the course of the year. This would still give the recruiters the opportunity to do those things mentioned above without closing shop entirely. * Reduce the strength of the Indiana Army National Guard
According to Sergeant Major Fulkerson, the strength of the Indiana Army National Guard is currently around 125%. There are approximately 3,000 more people in the Guard than is authorized. As stated above and in my literary review, this affects incentives. Until this number gets below the authorization, incentives are nearly impossible to give to future (and current) soldiers. One thing that I love about my current job is that I still get to be around soldiers. Nearly every day, I visit a National Guard unit. Based off of my observations while at these units, this would be easy to implement. Many units are littered with people who should not be in the military. There was one soldier who actually had to have his uniforms custom made because they do not issue them in a size large enough to fit him. Another soldier is on record as not having passed an Army Fitness Test in three years. I also knew of another soldier who had gone to a grand total of three drills in two years. One First Sergeant who would only speak in anonymity stated that when his unit deployed two years ago, they had to borrow soldiers from another unit even though his unit was over 150% strength.
The reason: Half his unit was ineligible for deployment due to issues like these. So why do they continue to fill the ranks if they are useless in the military? It is sort of a catch-22 situation. One of the things a unit commander is graded on is the strength of the unit. He must have the bodies to fill the slots. I think it is time we stopped this way of thinking. Let’s give these soldiers an ultimatum: You have six months to conform to regulations or you are discharged. These new vacancies will open up promotions within the unit and lower level vacancies for our recruiters. * Implement programs to help recruiters and their families This seems like a no-brainer but is a relative novelty idea in the recruiting command. Programs like the one mentioned in the sixth literary review helps everybody involved: the recruiter, the family and the command. Most of the time these types of programs are ran by volunteers and are conducted in either military installations or people’s homes so the cost is minimal. Also, finding a way to incorporate the families in the process worked well for me. Why not open the option up for all who would be interested? The main reason for this not happening is, as you might have guessed, time. Both the recruiter’s and the family member’s time is pretty much booked solid with all that is required of each of them. Trying to squeeze out even 30 minutes is sometimes very difficult. But the end result would have a positive impact. Reflection
Recruiting is difficult. I know first-hand just how difficult it is. There is so much required of a recruiter that most people do not understand. One of the most heart-wrenching statements was made by a recruiter who had three combat tours under his belt. Staff Sergeant Zach Essex is married with two kids and he claims, “Recruiting is much harder than a deployment. When you are deployed, you are thousands of miles away from your loved ones. In recruiting, I have been so close that I could see my kids playing in the backyard. It sucks but there is nothing you can do about it. I would give just about anything to go play with them but I can’t.”
My paper has hopefully helped you understand why the military recruiter is the most stressful job out there. We have looked at several things that make it tough but yet they get up every morning, put on their uniforms and go to work. I do believe that it does not need to be this way. There are several options available to help this fragile warrior and their families. Maybe in time, the commands will see it as well.