U.S. Army Recruiting Command: Soldiers are Investing in Communities

Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, TRADOC Deputy Commanding General (Right) passes the guidon to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow during USAREC's change of command ceremony June 23, 2015 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Sally Harding, Fort Knox Visual Information)
Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, TRADOC Deputy Commanding General (Right) passes the guidon to Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow during USAREC's change of command ceremony June 23, 2015 at Fort Knox, Kentucky. (Sally Harding, Fort Knox Visual Information)

HOPE MILLS -- Maj. Gen. Jeffrey J. Snow isn't a salesman.

And the commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command doesn't want his soldiers to be, either.

Instead, he wants investors -- soldiers willing to improve their communities regardless of whether the youth they work with eventually put on Army camouflage.

Snow, based at Fort Knox, Kentucky, is in North Carolina to learn how recruiters are doing just that.

In visits to recruiting centers in Hope Mills and Lumberton, he's picking up tips that he'll spread across his national network.

Today's recruiters face a seemingly daunting task, Snow said. Only about three in 10 American youth are eligible to join the Army. The rest are disqualified by academics, physical abilities or moral reasons, such as criminal records.

Soldiers with the Raleigh Recruiting Battalion, which includes recruiters surrounding Fort Bragg, are attacking the problem rather than lamenting a shrinking pool of potential recruits.

Through the battalion's Operation Enduring Hope, soldiers are working with schools to improve test scores, giving one-on-one care to youths battling obesity and building relationships early to ensure students have positive role models. In their spare time, many of the soldiers are volunteering in youth centers, coaching on sports teams and giving time to other community organizations.

The efforts are encouraging for Snow, and it's something he'd like to see more of from other recruiters.

"There are those that are quick to write off the youth of today," Snow said. "I think many of them want to join something that's bigger than them. They want to serve."

Recruiters are helping youth fulfill those desires, but they're doing so by embracing a tactic that recognizes that most of the soldiers they recruit won't spend 20 years in uniform.

"Only 30 percent of the force we recruit will make a career out of the Army," said Lt. Col. Ted Hudson, commander of the Raleigh Recruiting Battalion. "The other 70 percent, by and large, come back to their local community."

When they do, Hudson said he wants to make sure they return to civilian life having embraced educational opportunities, earned credentials that can give them a head start on civilian careers and take advantage of benefits that can help them get a home and start a family.

"We're enhancing the ability for a young man or woman to serve their country, but we're also setting them up for success, whether they serve one tour or a career," Snow said.

"It's not just about a job," he said. "It's about so much more than that."

In Hope Mills, six soldiers assigned to the recruiting center on North Main Street have used their "investment skills" to increase the number of recruits from three to five a month, to more than a dozen each month.

Snow knows that being near Fort Bragg helps those efforts, but he said the soldiers had hit on something more, too.

The soldiers have embraced their jobs as an opportunity to have a meaningful impact, Snow said.

"Thanks for what you do," he told them. "You're lacing up the boots and you're coming in because you want to make a difference."

Snow praised leadership in Raleigh for having built a message that positions the Army as a "transformative experience."

For Hudson, that means embracing the principal that a soldier can better himself while serving his country, a message that he said resonates with today's youth.

When he enlisted in the Army in 1989, Hudson said recruits had to put their lives on hold.

"It was the Army then college," Hudson said. "Now it's the Army and college."

Today's soldiers can enter the Army and almost immediately start earning college credit, he said. When they leave three or fours years later, they may be well on their way to a degree.

They also can earn credentials needed for a growing number of civilian career fields and take advantage of programs like the Partnership for Youth Successes, which guarantees transitioning soldiers interviews with corporate partners upon leaving the service.

The Raleigh Recruiting Battalion is providing teachers with free resources, like the Army's March 2 Success program, to help students improve test scores.

Hudson said his soldiers are becoming involved with younger students, sooner. That can help ensure students stay out of trouble that could prevent them from joining the Army.

For Snow, the efforts are paying off, regardless of the numbers of recruits added from the region.

"They're giving so much back to the community," he said.

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