Marine Sgt. Douglas C. Gross checked in to Recruiting Station Des Moines at the start of the summer, and while school was out for those short three months, his focus was to get out and about in the community to look for a few good men and women.
During the month of August, however, he and the rest of the canvassing recruiters had to refocus their efforts from the summer hangout spots to the hallways of their high schools.
To help with the process, the command group hosted the recruiting station's first ever high school mock visit here - with real educators - Aug. 20 with more than 50 canvassing recruiters in attendance. The cooperative effort aimed to serve as a refresher for the seasoned Marines and provide much needed practical application experience for the new recruiters.
Marta Paukert with Eagle Grove High School in Eagle Grove; David Fravel with Sioux City North High School in Sioux City; Allison Cain with Lincoln High School in Des Moines and Jesse Gronemeyer with Tri-County High School in Beatrice, Nebraska, all participated in the exercise.
The educators, who are principals and counselors, played their roles as well as those of athletic and band directors.
Capt. Randon Knoll, Recruiting Station Des Moines executive officer, said preparing the recruiters for the upcoming school year will make them successful.
"With many new recruiters on the streets, our intent was to give them a 'dry run' for all important initial visits for the High School Community College Program," the Ackley, Iowa, native said. "By allowing them to conduct an initial visit with real educators, they can get it right before they do it for real."
The High School Community College Program is vital to the recruiting station's success. The program is designed for the whole command group, especially the recruiters, to actively engage the high schools and community colleges by conducting career, band and Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps talks, presenting high school awards, administering the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and collecting high school and community college student lists.
Areas such as speaking abilities and topic knowledge were covered, but as Fravel, activities director at Sioux City North High School, put it, it's all about breaking the ice first.
"I suggested for them to survey the office, such as pictures, awards, etc.," Fravel said. "They would have guessed I like to fish and hunt and that I have a son in the military. Once they absorb that, they will probably engage in a conversation based off what they saw and then most likely, the visit will go very well."
In years past, the command group conducted "round robins" where they would play the roles of counselors and principals. Gross felt the training was essential due to the fact actual educators took time out of their schedules to help the Marines.
"I can't compare what I learned during the mock high school visit to what other recruiters learned in the past," the Moline, Ill., native said. "But what I did learn was that with the real educators, you can get real reactions. It was very beneficial. I'm going to walk into high schools with the confidence and knowledge I need to be successful out here."
The educators' reactions Gross spoke of varied from cooperative to uncooperative, but those are the scenarios the recruiters will face, according to Knoll.
"Not every high school counselor, principal, etc., will be on the recruiters' side," Knoll stressed. "A recruiter's ability to adapt to different situations, to overcome shortcomings is vital to their success and the recruiting station's [success] as a whole."
Knoll said the mock visit was the first of many, as improvements can always be made.
"Every year, we'll always have new recruiters, and every year, we will always need to refresh the recruiters' skills," Knoll said. "Nothing will ever be perfect, but as long as they fine tune their skills on a consistent basis, they will be successful."