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Rural recruiting has some unique challenges associated within the it. Sergeant Corey Ridgeway tells us about his experience working in this environment.

Photo by Sgt. Timothy Smithers

Where Everybody Knows Your Name: Rural America Recruiting

5 Jan 2021 | Sgt. Timothy Smithers 9th Marine Corps District

Recruiting is a hard job that includes long hours, countless phone calls, appointments, paperwork, planning, scheduling and more paperwork among other things. These elements are inherent to the position, regardless of location. However, what is it like to manage all of these items while being at a rural location?

Sergeant Corey Ridgeway is a Marine who has been tasked with such a mission. A native of Wapello, Iowa, Ridgeway is in charge of recruiting in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. Located on the Mississippi and Wisconsin rivers, Prairie Du Chien is host to scenic river views and the Midwest’s iconic corn fields.

While traveling through scenic landscapes may be enjoyable, it doesn’t negate the primary adversary of rural recruiting, distance. Traveling from small town to small town, tactically scheduling appointments along the way and planning a route most advantageous to the schedule are all constant in a rural recruiter’s plan.

While the drive may be long, word travels fast in small communities in spite of the long distance.

“You have to be on your ‘A’ game,” said Ridgeway. “Not only is it spread out but the towns are so small, that everybody knows who you are. It takes ‘being a Marine’ to a whole new level.”

Despite covering such a large area and being well known in the community, there are some benefits to recruiting in a rural community.

These small towns are patriotic and the people are always willing to talk to you, Ridgeway stated.

Another benefit of being associated with these tight-knit towns is a ripple effect. Even if the person talking to the recruiter with isn’t interested in enlisting, they always know someone who might be.

“Referrals are a big thing out here and everybody talks,” said Ridgeway. “When you get one person to enlist the surrounding six towns know the next day, it really helps.”

Even if the other towns are talking and referrals are coming in, everything done at a rural recruiting station needs to be strategic. Being the only recruiter in a rural area, having a plan takes on a whole new meaning and efficiently managing the schedule is of the utmost importance.

There are a myriad of challenges associated with recruiting. Taking all of those challenges and then putting them into a rural area can amplify difficulties. So long as recruiters such as Sgt. Ridgeway continue to navigate the intricacies of rural recruiting, the Marine Corps will continue to meet its recruiting mission: Making Marines, Winning our Nation’s Battles, Returning Quality Citizens.

9th Marine Corps District