Oregon Recruiters Try Unconventional Techniques, Still Fail to Meet Quotas
From today's Oregonian
A 30-foot climbing wall towered over vendors hawking subwoofers and puka shell necklaces at Portland's stop on the Pro Wakeboard Tour. Next to the wall flew a black-and-gold banner promoting "An Army of One." At the base stood Sgt. Richard Ray.And for the few nibbles at the $20,000/18-month-terms* bait there are many who are dissuaded by friends and family or disqualified for lack of education, physical ailments, or troubles with the law:
"We're getting more innovative," said Ray, who heads the Army's Gresham recruiting station and who is one of five recruiters who spent the last Saturday afternoon in July working the wakeboard crowd at Blue Lake Park.
Targeting the tanned throng at extreme sports events is one example of the innovations.
The Army sponsors stock cars and drag racers to appeal to speed demons. Cyber-recruiters go after young adults who spend their lives online, and "America's Army," an online computer game that simulates missions in the war on terror, goes after video-game junkies.
But even with new approaches and new enticements -- $20,000 signing bonuses and service terms as short as 18 months -- the Army is struggling to meet the demand for soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, Europe and elsewhere.
As of Wednesday, with just under two months left in the fiscal year, the Portland area's 43 Army recruiters had enlisted 323, nowhere near their goal of 569. The Army also missed its Portland-area goal last year, according to Gary Stauffer, public affairs officer for the Portland battalion.
At the Blue Lake wakeboard competition, children clamored for free Army-logo memorabilia while adults tackled the wall. But those of military age -- 17 to 35 for active duty, 17 to 40 for the reserves -- seemed wary.Hmm, targeting pro wakeboarding fans, car racing fans, and video game fans doesn't seem to be working. If only there were a group of young men and women for the recruiters to target, young folks in peak physical condition, possessing high school (and maybe some college) education, with no criminal record, whose friends and family all believe in President George AWOL Bush and his Struggle Against Ideological Extremists Who Do Not Believe In Free Societies Who Happen To Use Terror As A Weapon To Try To Shake The Conscience Of The Free World. Instead of the "Fans of the X Games" crowd, maybe they should look toward the "Fans of the W Wars" crowd.
As a sunburned wakeboarding fan in his 20s signed a release form to climb the wall, his friend said, laughing: "This probably means they're gonna ship you out to Iran at 6 in the morning tomorrow."
At the wakeboard event, a middle-age woman asked Ray for an application for her son. After a few more questions, Ray discovered that the son was trying to escape a troubled past.
"If you can't hack it in high school," Ray said later, "what makes you think you can make it in the real world?"
More than half of the people who want to join the Army get turned away.... Among the ineligible are those who lack a GED certificate or high school diploma, score low on a standardized career aptitude test, suffer physical ailments or have a criminal record.
"We're finding that even though a young man or young woman may be interested in going, they're possibly being discouraged by a parent or another influencer in their life."
The Kenosha Kid noted the usual reply from a typical Yellow Elephant: "You don't have to be a firefighter to support the fire department, so what's your point?" Digby's point is good, but here's how I reply: "True, you do not have to be a firefighter to support the fire department. But if you just appointed a serial arsonist to be commissioner of the fire department and your house mysteriously catches fire, your neighbors and the overworked firefighters have every right to expect you to grab your garden hose and start spraying."
* Somebody might want to explain to my brother-in-law how that 18-month-term thing works out. He signed up for one of those old-fashioned 24-month terms in the National Guard and is now approaching his fourth full year in Afghanistan fixing Apache helicopters thanks to stop-loss.