Recruiting is necessary for the Marine Corps to sustain its full strength. Recruiters must continually find those few who accept the challenge to become members of one of the most elite of military branches. However, this has become an increasingly difficult mission. Operations around the globe, where Marines are on the front lines, are causing applicants and their families to think harder about enlisting.
According to Sgt. David J. Hernandez of RSS Fort Wayne, however, the war in Iraq is the biggest deterrent for young adults to enlist, and recruiters have to be well- informed and prepared to handle concerns from parents and family.
Now, not only are recruiters trying to educate the applicant, but they also have to educate his or her parents, explained Sgt. Richard A. Davenport, RSS Fort Wayne.
"Parents are the biggest challenge we face when dealing with any applicant, no matter what age," said Hernandez. "Parents are a big influence on a kid’s decision. If they’re not on board, the kid won’t enlist."
Hernandez said when he approaches a potential applicant, he takes the time to talk about school, graduating, extra curricular activities, sports, and common interests.
"You have to see what they’re interested in first, then correlate that with the Marine Corps," Hernandez said. "I can talk about the Marine Corps all day, but if they’re not interested, they’re not going to listen."
However, parents’ concerns soon become a large issue during interviews since they have a significant influence over their kids’ decisions.
Poolee Michael Florin, said he attempted to join the Marine Corps two years ago, but his parent’s concerns had kept him from enlisting. Now, Florin is working with Hernandez and has enlisted.
Florin said his parents were concerned about him going to war, but Hernandez was able to address those concerns. "Sgt. Hernandez was able to talk to my parents and dispel all their fears," Florin said.
According to Maj. Christian F. Wortman, commanding officer of RS Indianapolis, with sustained insurgency in Iraq and Afghanistan, parents are more concerned and involved in the decision-making process, and the surge of patriotism that followed 911, OEF and OIF has receded.
"A lot of Americans are back to life as normal and not mindful of the important work we are doing," he said. "There’s a lot of, ‘We support the military, but not my son or daughter.’"
He also said recruiters have to overcome the applicants’ doubts because many live comfortable lives without having to make sacrifices, and there’s a common attitude that someone else will take care of things for them.
According to Staff Sgt. Jason M. Willette, RSS Southeast Indianapolis, this was not the common mindset of recruiters when he recruited at RS Des Moines from 1999-2002. Applicants were more eager to join, and parents were more willing to talk. Now, he said applicants are more likely to not show up to interviews and they make assumptions from what they see and hear from television, media and people around them.
"You need to get the parents involved from the beginning, even if the young man or woman is 20 and lives away from home," Willette said.
While these situations have caused recruiting duty to become difficult, the Marines continue to work with confidence.
The mission may be more difficult with parents, but there are still great Americans that want to serve their country, said Gunnery Sgt. Jessie W. Cornelius, assistant recruiter instructor, RS Indianapolis. Recruiters have to continue to educate the American people on the benefits of being a Marine.
"The biggest challenge is that the mission never goes away," Wortman said. "The biggest challenge is walking in the office every single day focused on being effective and productive."
Recruiters must have a passion for what they are doing and selling, Wortman said. Without it, all of the skills and information in the world won’t matter. They must have a warrior mentality about the long-term health of the Marine Corps by finding great Americans to serve.
"[The recruiting mission] is tough, but Marines have been doing tough things for 229 years," Wortman said. "It’s not Guadalcanal, and it isn’t Fallujah. Marines succeeded there and we can succeed here."