Defying the odds, two Recruiting Station Des Moines recruiters received rare honors here Aug. 11, for signing up 100 recruits each over the past four years.
Dubbed “centurions,” after Roman warriors who commanded 100 men, Staff Sgt. Ryan C. Easton and Staff Sgt. Charles R. Rush each became two of only 170 9th Marine Corps District recruiters since 1982 to earn the title.
Yet with recruiting on the downswing, growing numbers of opponents to military service and lots of bad press, a grim, challenging battlefield lays in front of even the most hard-charging Marine.
So how did these two recruiters rack up the contracts? Most of their “secrets” are really no secret at all.
“The biggest thing is motivation out here — showing the kid you love being a Marine and what it’s done for you,” said Rush, 35, who works at Recruiting Substation South Omaha in Bellevue, Neb.
In fact, Rush will often let a prospective recruit put on his Dress Blues blouse and look in the mirror. Then he’ll pop the question: “So are you ready to be a Marine?”
Easton, 27, finds his drive in the results.
“After I began to put guys in and see the change I did for them, that was the motivation that kept me going,” said Easton. “The Marine Corps has done so much for myself, and I wanted to offer that to the other kids. ... Seeing how grateful they are is what drove me to write more contracts.”
Both agree one of the keys to attracting more poolees is use the ones you already have.
“Work your pool to death,” recommended Rush.
Poolees can be a recruiter’s eyes and ears in a high school, pointing out fellow students who are checking out the military. During Rush’s interviews with their friends, poolees would conveniently drop in to help quell apprehension. At least 25 percent of Rush’s contracts were referrals from his poolees.
Staying involved in the poolees’ lives and with their parents helps too, they said. Rush sends his poolees birthday cards and works out with them. Easton tries to keep parents “in the loop” to further ensure the poolee ships to boot camp.
Another key, said Easton, is knowing when to work.
Not only does this mean understanding when it’s the best time to phone kids at home or to cruise by the local hangouts, it is learning how long it takes to complete common tasks, like running police background checks or driving to a school, and scheduling accordingly.
Recruiters learn this by immersing themselves into an area as well as gleaning information from their predecessors, said Easton, who currently runs RSS Quad Cities in Davenport, Iowa, where he leads four recruiters.
Despite working toward a common goal, competition amongst fellow recruiters can fuel superior achievement, said Easton. RS Des Moines, like most stations, spotlights crackerjack recruiters and rewards them with informal awards like baseball bats or swords, as well as formal ones like meritorious masts. Every month he wanted to be on the top of the list.
“It just started adding up,” said Easton.
Above all, the real secret is just loving the job.
“Recruiting is self-gratifying,” he said. "You get what you put into it, and the more you put into it the better you feel ... about helping the youth of America.”
“Recruiting by no means is ever going to be easy,” Easton said. “If you make it fun, if you enjoy it, if you come out here with a positive attitude and say ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to be successful’; in the end, the Centurion will be there.”