It’s been said that, “Good things come to those who wait.” While that maxim may hold true with many things, Reserve contracting and shipping is not one of them.
Conventional wisdom at 9th Marine Corps District holds that Reserve contracting and shipping are best emphasized early in the fiscal year. In order to avoid end-of-the-fiscal year crunches that come with the surge of poolees who ship to recruit training during the summer months, 9th MCD emphasizes shipping early and staying ahead for the year.
Gunnery Sgt. Torrance Wiseman, 9th MCD Reserve Procurement Chief and former Recruiting Station Kansas City recruiter, summed up 9th MCD’s approach toward its Reserve mission by saying, “We can’t keep pushing [Quota Serial Numbers–used to refer to Reserve contracts] out because we don’t want to run into bed-space issues trying to ship a large number of reservists at the end of the last quarter.”
While increased Reserve operational tempo and the greater likelihood of repeated mobilizations have altered the Reserve-recruiting landscape, many of the challenges with respect to Reserve contracting and shipping remain the same. Of course, so do the solutions.
One of the keys to success is understanding who is most attracted to service in the Reserves. While many applicants join the Marine Corps to leave home and see the world, there are many who prefer to stay closer to home – and for a variety of reasons.
“For those who are attending college close to home, or those who want to be a Marine, but not leave friends and family, staying local is important,” explained Wiseman. “Perhaps they want extra money for college or a job skill that will make them more marketable," he said. "They can get that in the reserves through drill pay, the Reserve GI Bill, and [Military Occupational Specialty] training.”
Being close to home and still being called a Marine is attractive, said Capt. Maxx Godsey, RS Des Moines operations officer. Godsey, whose station has enjoyed a successful fiscal year of Reserve contracting and shipping, echoed many of Wiseman’s sentiments, adding that, “Financial benefits seem to come last in importance. The intangibles remain the biggest draws.”
While helping an applicant identify his priorities and supporting his needs with features and benefits is important in writing any contract, the limited number of Reserve opportunities in any given area makes it particularly essential when writing reserve contracts. Since an applicant essentially contracts to fill a specific job within a Reserve unit, he is essentially signing up for his MOS. That’s why Wiseman emphasizes the importance of making sure an applicant is qualified for the MOS to which they will be assigned.
“It’s hard to overcome selling an applicant on a unit and an MOS, then not being able to provide that job,” said Wiseman. “It then becomes a credibility issue, so check regularly for availability.” He summarized, “Know what it takes to qualify and have a QSN for applicants before they go to [the Military Entrance Processing Station].”
Of course, having a QSN for an applicant means knowing what openings are available. In speaking about his station’s success with reserve contracting, Godsey emphasizes that: “Constant communication with the field as to the status of our QSNs has been a key. Regular QSN lists have been published for contract filling.”
As a former canvassing recruiter, Wiseman understands the importance of keeping current on QSN availability when signing Reserve contracts, pointing out that, “(Limited openings) can be a selling point when it comes to imparting a sense of urgency. Positions that were there yesterday may be gone tomorrow.”
Knowing what QSNs are available can be particularly important when writing female Reserve contracts. Since, by law, women are not permitted to serve in combat units, many Reserve units will be closed to female reservists.
“Know what’s in your area and sell what you have,” said Wiseman. “Once you run out of jobs open to females, for the most part that’s it for the (fiscal year). But if you have a situation, let your RS Ops section know and they can contact me to see if there are any options.”
Contracting is only part of the Reserve recruiting battle. In recruiting, the job isn’t complete until an applicant successfully graduates recruit training. This requires successfull shipping. This is where pool management becomes important. Maintaining regular contact with poolees and staying current on their personal situations affords recruiters the ability to ask Reserve poolees to ship earlier than expected if the request comes down from higher headquarters – as it often does.
Godsey credits intense SNCOIC involvement with the Reserve pool for RS Des Moines’ Reserve shipping success. “Poolee events and constant communication with the reserve pool have allowed us to move more shippers up to ship in the first quarter of FY06,” said Godsey.
While pool management is crucial in Reserve shipping, Staff Sgt. James Riley III, canvassing recruiter from Recruiting Substation West Omaha, RS Des Moines, credits his overall shipping success to his forthright approach with applicants. Riley, RS Des Moines’ 2005 Recruiter of the Year, has only had two Delayed Entry Program discharges in 18 months of recruiting duty. Riley said his secret to shipping success is simple: “When I enlist a young man or woman, I am so explicit with them in explaining the process that I know he or she will ship.”
At the command level, some recruiting stations have spurred their Reserve recruiting efforts through incentive programs. RS Des Moines’ “Ultimate Fall Brawl,” which ran from October through January, covered the spectrum of recruiting. The campaign employed a system that assigned points to the varying categories of recruiting contracts, assigning the highest number of points to grads (those who have graduated from high school) female regular and Reserve contracts, followed by grad male Reserve contracts.
The “Ultimate Fall Brawl” featured monthly trophy awards for top-scoring recruiters and SNCOICs. Monthly time-off incentives were given to substations that met mission requirements early and recruiters who met certain performance criteria. The campaign’s top overall performers were submitted for official awards, including Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals for the highest achievers.
Of the 242 contracts RS Des Moines had written by Feb. 3, male Reserve contracts made up 22 percent of that total, reflecting an emphasis on early Reserve mission attainment. Putting the campaign’s effectiveness into perspective, Godsey said, “I believe the offensive played a strong role in our Reserve contracting, but I would not say it played the pivotal role.” He praised the dedication of his recruiters, adding: “It would be fairer to our Marines to say we focused on the mission at hand and accomplished it. The fact that there were some additional rewards made it a little more motivating, but our warriors here really thrive on mission accomplishment more than anything else.”
RS Lansing is currently running a campaign devoted exclusively to Reserve contracting. The campaign, which began in December, will run until May. RS Lansing’s campaign will coincide with the sequel to the District’s “Operation Kickoff” campaign. “Operation Kickoff: Overtime,” which began Feb. 1. This campaign will award an “Operation Kickoff” helmet trophy and a Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal to recruiters who contract and ship either two regular females, three reservists, or a combination of one regular female and two reservists.
“Operation Kickoff: Overtime” reflects 9th MCD’s commitment to early Reserve mission attainment. “Operation Kickoff: Overtime’ is, in effect, the District running the two-minute drill to accomplish the Reserve mission,” said Lt. Col. Tracy Smith, 9th MCD operations officer. “The campaign reflects the commanding officer’s commitment to early QSN mission attainment. We hope to reward as many Marines as we can during this offensive.”
With the whole team working together, they just might.