Photo Information

U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Evan French, a production recruiter, with Recruiting Substation Champaign, Recruiting Station St. Louis conducts a virtual interview with a prospect in Champaign, Illinois on July 28, 2020. During the month of April most of the RSS' stopped area canvasing to look for new prospects to ensure the safety of the recruiters and public. This led them to rely more heavily on phone calls and social media as their tool for communication. (Curtosey Photo)

Photo by Lance Cpl. Tyler M. Solak

The Masked Recruiters

5 Jan 2021 | Lance Cpl. Tyler M. Solak 9th Marine Corps District

Blue trousers and khaki shirts are less common in local malls and schools due to the restrictions caused by COVID-19, with most of the country’s population distancing themselves from one another and spending less time in public. Recruiters, however are still accomplishing their mission despite COVID-19.

“Our job is to find qualified young men and women who have a desire and drive to serve their country,” said Sgt. Eric Gabriel, the staff non-commissioned officer in charge of Recruiting Substation (RSS) North Indianapolis, Recruiting Station (RS) Indianapolis, 9th Marine Corps District (9MCD). “The Marine Corps has a responsibility to the United States of America and what goes on around us cannot affect us; we just adapt to what we have to do.”
Recruiters modified the ways they look for and communicate with possible prospects.
“Recruiting has changed quite a bit since we aren’t able to go out and show face” said Staff Sgt. Dustin Parrish, a recruiter from RSS Wausau, RS Milwaukee, 9MCD. “I know a big part about the Marines is our ability to visually attract people’s eyes with the uniform as well as our presence and how we carry ourselves, so it’s a little different now that we have to do everything remotely.”
During the month of April most of the RSS’s stopped area canvasing to look for new prospects to ensure the safety of the recruiters and public. This led them to rely more heavily on phone calls and social media to search for new prospects.
“It’s a lot more list scheduling and going off the school lists and talking to counselors to see what students they think would be good for the Marine Corps,” said Parrish.
Social media is becoming a major tool for recruiters expanding their reach to make impressions on new prospects. Their poolees are also helping them spread the message.
“When I post about the Marine Corps on Facebook or Snapchat my poolees will save it and share it so all their friends will see it. I’m able to get my message out to more people that I normally wouldn’t have direct connections” said Sgt Dylan Peterson, a recruiter from RSS Eau Claire, RS Twin Cities, 9MCD.
Recruiters spend time building relationships with their pool to ensure the poolees know their recruiters are there to mentor and support them before they attend recruit training.
“It’s important to maintain a relationship with the poolees so that they know I’m still here for them and care about them during these times,” Parrish said. “That plays a big part in the success, just keeping the poolees engaged. Even with these things going on the Marines are still doing their jobs and there’s no excuses for why we can’t include [poolees] in our time.”
Recruiters are still keeping up with their poolees by having group video calls and making sure poolees continue to stay mentally and physically active.
“We’ve had section PT (physical training) and pool functions where 10 or less poolees show up once a week to do PT at the office,” said Staff Sgt. John Luna, a recruiter from RSS Midwest City, RS Oklahoma City, 9MCD. “We utilize PT to maintain their commitment and improve their mental strength through face to face interaction.”
Recruiting during a pandemic is nearly impossible to plan for, and recruiters have adapted to the new environment on their own with the support of their respective commands.
“The biggest factor is the understanding from higher up on down that [the environment] has changed in the way we recruit. They have allowed us to adapt to the changing battlefield ourselves, while still giving us guidelines. But [leaders] understand that they haven’t had an experience recruiting like this, and the most important thing for them to do is to listen to us because we are the ones out there day in and day out. We are the ones experiencing the change and the ones having to adapt,” said Luna. “[Leadership] allowing us to perform while giving us the trust and confidence that we have received since the start has given us a lot of encouragement and confidence in our abilities to succeed throughout COVID.”

9th Marine Corps District