They may not be fighting for their lives like the Marines on Iwo Jima or those currently in the war on terror, but Marine recruiters engage a different type of enemy daily as they carry out a series of what most see as 36 daunting monthly missions. This never-ending battle for today?s youth, the future of the Corps, is as competitive as it?s ever been. With a solid economy and college enrollments at an all-time high, Marines in dress blues, brief case in hand, can be found in every clime and place seeking new recruits. We?ve heard reports from the top, how the Marine Corps has consistently met recruitment goals for more than 80 months, far surpassing the other branches, but the buzz from the trenches hasn?t been so picturesque. ?In the fleet, all you ever hear about recruiting duty are the negative things,? said SSgt. Mauricio CastroLopez, a canvassing recruiter at Recruiting Station Lansing, MI. According to CastroLopez, a meritorious Staff Sergeant, these rumors can be misleading, but by having the right attitude and the desire to succeed you can be successful and actually enjoy your time on the streets. ?We have a saying out here, ?Make Mission, Go Fishin?, and that?s exactly what we do,? said CastroLopez.
Every person who?s ever earned the title Marine, is instilled early-on with a sense of pride and a desire to not only complete the task at hand, but to go above and beyond the call of duty. It is often said that recruiters, recruit in their own image, who knows, but undoubtedly there?s no other billet today which allows an individual Marine to affect the future of the Corps so profoundly. With a proud legacy and a responsibility like that, should we be surprised to hear that we?re not only filling our ranks, far better than everyone else, but also over contracting and getting some much needed libo-time in the process.
Most mornings at 0630, you?ll find SSgt. Joe Riggins comfortably clad in a Marine Corps tee-shirt and sweat suit, shuffling through a stack of Prospect Applicant Cards as he prepares for another day of recruiting in Grand Rapids, MI. He looks over his telephone call-back log and carefully decides which teenagers to call first as he straightens up his work space. With everything now in order, he shoots next door to the Bagel Beanery for another cup of coffee before he starts making phone calls. ?Coffee is an important part of my day,? said Riggins. ?Without it, I sound a little monotone on the phone, and you don?t want that,? he said. Riggins, a Detroit, MI native, was a radio chief in Hawaii before coming back to Michigan on recruiting duty. This is a benefit unique to recruiting duty, which sometimes allows Marines to recruit in or near their hometowns and gives them an opportunity to be near their families. Having recruited more than 80 people in about 20 months, not only is Riggins one of the best recruiters in the 9th Marine Corps District, but also has some of the best recruiting statistics in the nation. ?I get a lot of time off, because when I?m at work, I work,? said Riggins. On recruiting duty you don?t have set hours, so you have to stay focused and make the best use of your time, according to Riggins. ?Family time is very important, so as a reward, I like to take my entire family to the movies or barbeque at the house with my friends for relaxation,? said Riggins. ?About every week, I take my kids to the toy store for an hour or so and buy them a new toy. They?re ages five and seven, so it?s just like going to an amusement park to them,? said Riggins. ?Recruiting is demanding and the mission drives the tempo, so to be successful on this duty you have to be proactive, rather than reactive,? said GySgt. James Corwin, Recruiter Instructor at RS Lansing. Corwin, also a Michigan native and former Infantryman, has spent his time in the trenches as a recruiter and is now the career recruiter in charge of training the Marines at RS Lansing. ?We front load our objectives and work smartly to make mission on or around the 15th of each month, which directly affects the quality of life of our Marines,? he said. You have to factor some libo-time into your monthly planning, according to Corwin, so the monthly All-hands and NCOIC meetings are designed to build camaraderie and esprite-de-corps. Corwin is an avid hunter and fisherman and takes the ?Make Mission, Go Fishin? phrase seriously. He recently won the Chippewa Lake Walleye Tournament by reeling in an eight pound, 29.5? long prize-winning walleye.
The approach to making mission is just as varied as what each recruiter does on their time off and each recruiter has his or her strong areas. It?s not unusual for recruiters to recruit while they?re doing the activities they like to do, such as working out at the gym or playing sports. Typically after making phone calls in the morning, recruiters put on their dress blues and visit a few high schools mid-day during lunchtime. ?Personal appearance is extremely important on this duty, because all eyes are upon you, especially in the schools,? said Riggins. ?We get a full issue of dress blues out of recruiter school and the $375 we currently receive for special duty allowance pay, which is scheduled to increase in 2003, covers all your dry cleaning and haircuts,? he said. Recruiters are always looking for innovative ways to recruit, so bright red custom humvee?s with monster sound systems and inflatable obstacle courses are used as attention gainers in the schools and at special events. Although other branches have tried copying these tactics by painting up a few old hummers and bringing rock walls to special events, the unified message and distinctive branding of the Marine Corps is most identifiable, according to the crowds. It seems, the public reaction to Marines in uniform is far different on recruiting duty than it is in a military town where Marines are everywhere you look, according to Riggins. ?You represent the Marine Corps to the local community and you feel like you?re a celebrity when you go to the schools and local events,? he said. Usually after visiting the high schools, the recruiter?s tool around town in their ?G-Rides?, an affectionate name for a government vehicle, canvassing the area looking for new applicants and doing other community related events such as color guards and speaking engagements. ?You can have a lot of fun doing color guards and conducting chin-up challenges at the county fairs and festivals in your area,? said SSgt. John E. Taylor, canvassing recruiter in Grand Rapids, MI.
On a sunny Saturday in June, Taylor brought his wife and two children out to the 101.3FM Foxfest, an all-day classic rock concert with 70,000 spectators that was being hosted by an area radio station. As Taylor and his fellow recruiters combed the crowd, handing out business cards and compelling teenagers to participate in the chin-up challenge, his family took in the show, and gave out pamphlets and stickers at the recruiting booth in the carnival area. A festive crowd of onlookers gathered around the Marine booth as a steady stream of sun-baked youth muscled-it-out on the chin-up bar with aspirations of winning a Marine Corps tee shirt or key chain. Music and the scent of delicious carnival foods filled the air as the Marines barked like drill instructors motivating the participants to squeeze out just a few more chin-ups. ?It?s amazing how hard they?re willing to work to win a Marine tee shirt,? said Taylor.
After the last band had left the stage and the crowd was making its way home, the Marines began tearing down their booth and loading their cars. ?It was a good day, we made a lot of contacts and set a lot of appointments,? said Taylor. Tomorrow morning they?ll sort through the names and begin the process of calling these new prospects. In this never-ending quest to put feet upon the yellow footprints, the Marines have answered the mail, putting in the effort and hard work necessary to make mission. Words like honor, courage and commitment aren?t just catch phrases, but a way of life for those who have earned that right of passage into this elite brotherhood. ?No matter what you?re doing you have to remember who you are,? said Corwin. ?Whether you?re recruiting or in a combat zone, Marines make mission first, then go fishin.?