Military.com

With a Million Members, Military Network Looks to Expand Reach

The founders of RallyPoint.com are Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing. Photo courtesy RallyPoint.com via Stars & Stripes

In a recent exchange on the social network RallyPoint, an airman searched for specific information to help with his permanent change of station move to an uncommon overseas post: RAF Lakenheath in the United Kingdom.

Other RallyPoint members, their rank and service affiliation clearly visible on their profiles, chimed in with helpful tips and anecdotes about their own assignments.

On another occasion several years ago, an Army veteran 90 applications into a frustrating job search found employment at telecommunications giant Time Warner Cable after only 72 hours on the site.

RallyPoint is young -- it was launched in 2012 -- but it's growing fast, passing the million-member mark in December.

And company executives say they hope they're becoming the go-to place for both kinds of conversations above: veterans and transitioning service members seeking a nexus to careers and opportunities in the civilian sphere, and active-duty troops looking to communicate and connect with other service members anywhere in the world.

"We're able to open up in a way that in a military network like this that we don't really do in other networks," Brandon Charters, director of accounts for RallyPoint, told Military.com. "So that has really been what we've seen has been answering the need ... a lot of service members and vets are looking for, that comfort of a dedicated network for them and by them."

Charters, a former Air Force officer, has been with RallyPoint since it started, connecting with founders Yinon Weiss and Aaron Kletzing as they were planning the site. Weiss and Kletzing, both former Army officers, met in Baghdad in 2008 during a deployment, then bumped into each other again at Harvard Business School years later.

Charters is fond of saying that the conversations that take place on RallyPoint couldn't happen anywhere else, and there are good reasons why that might be the case. There's no anonymity on the site, as members are identified by rank, dates of service, date of rank, current post and more. But unlike in the military hierarchy, any member can freely interact with any other, regardless of pay grade.

While trolls and fakers do sometimes join the discussion, Charters said the transparency of the format encourages self-policing by other members. For the most part, he said, discussions are respectful.

Initially, the site was reserved for active-duty troops only, but it's now open to members of the National Guard and Reserve, veterans, and anyone who self-identifies as a "civilian supporter," said Nick Petros, head of marketing for RallyPoint.

For a lot of veterans who have been out of uniform for a while, it's a chance to "wear their rank for a little bit, and feel like they're part of something bigger," Petros said. On the civilian side, the site is popular with job recruiters looking for highly skilled veterans in search of employment.

"Everyone knows who they're speaking to. You're able to engage cross-rank, cross-branch. And because of that, we've unleashed a torrent of conversation that just doesn't really exist anywhere else," Petros said. "It varies from professional and active-duty guys PCSing to humorous. It's kind of like the military's communication connection online."

Staff with the company are particularly excited to see cases in which a PCSing service member finds that many of the members of his or her new unit are already on RallyPoint, ready to connect. And that's happening more often, they said.

"We probably have the most complete organizational structure of the military in the country, outside of the Pentagon," Charters said.

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at@HopeSeck.