Student of Life -
Hey Parents - If you have a senior in high school or a recent graduate - you know EXACTLY who's on the other line when the Caller ID says US Government. It's a recruiter, calling to speak to your child about the opportunities in the military. There's a lot of misconceptions on what military recruiters are authorized to do , and what we're not. So I thought, after hearing 'don't call me again' a few hundred times this week, I'd set the record straight so to speak.
First some basic information about recruiting.
First and foremost, we are in sales. We're trained in selling, we conduct recruiting as if we were selling something. In effect, we are. Our mission is to get beyond the petty excuses, find the needs of the child (note I didn't say the parents, that comes later) and then explain how the military can meet those needs.
Our primary objective is to contact every high school senior and speak with them about the military. We have four primary ways we can do that.
- Telephone - We call the house, speak to them then.
- Area Canvass - We meet them at their work, at school, at the mall, whereever they are
- Office Traffic - They walk in or call us.
- Home Visit - we get their address and knock on the door of their house. Our other objective is, oddly enough to disqualify them. We ask on average over 500 questions per interview with a young individual , all aimed at disqualifying them from military service. I hear it in my in brief every day "Screen to DQ". Why? Simply put, if we don't find it, our boss will. If he doesn't, MEPS will. if MEPS doesn't find it, basic will. Better to get it out of the way first and save ourselves the frustration and lost time later.
Now I'd like to address a few misnomers.
1. "Go the jail, or join the military." This is not the case anymore. In fact, if you are in so much trouble that this is what the judge is telling you - you're already morally disqualified.
2. "I'll drop out of school, then join the military." I can only speak for the Marines, but each RS is only allowed one or two Cat 4s a year. If you're not a female with a ASVAB score of 50 or higher, I can tell you it won't be you. You have to get a high school diploma to enlist. Or, you can finish your Sophmore year, and do a semester of college.
3. "The military is always hiring, and you can leave right away." If you're a graduate, we may not 'hire you' for a couple of months. We have minimum numbers we have to get, as well as maximum numbers. Right now, you're looking at a minimum of 6 months between when you contract , and when you ship. At least. Most are longer.
4. "If my record is sealed, the military won't look at it." When we do a police record check, it shows all charges and records, regardless of whether it's been sealed or not.
5. "I signed the Opt-out list for my kid..." Long story short, that list doesn't change anything in the grand scheme of things. A provision of the No Child Left Behind Act states that all public schools must give equal access to all recruiters. This includes job recruiters, college recruiters, and...military recruiters. All the opt-out list does is make your number 'unlisted' when we contact the school and request the lists for the junior classes. However, their name and address are still listed. (The list primarily used contains data pulled off of the emergency contact list.)
6. "I'll hide my medical/drug/legal/moral/educational condition" Simply - no you won't. We're very good at gaining trust, building rapport, and being we constantly screen, eventually we'll catch you in it. Be honest and up front about it, and 99/100 times - we can work with it.
7. "Recruiters lie!" Not if we value our careers. If we're caught lying to a kid or 'frauding' him in (ie telling him to lie about his asthma) we get led out of the RSS in handcuffs. No joking. As for lying - yes, it was common in the 80s and 90s. Why ? No way to verify the information. Now you can access everything I'm telling you in any of 100 places. I lie to you, you tell your friends, and I ruin my reputation in that school. I can't afford to do that.
8. "The military will take anyone." No, we won't. Statistically less than 1% of the US population is qualified for military service. (Morally, medically, educationally) And right now, waivers are hard to come by. By hard, I mean impossible. The military is not a rehabilitation clinic for society's miscreants.
Alright, now let's talk about a bit of cause and effect - these are my own personal experiences, some of which I'll use as examples.
(Disclaimer: I know that 'cold calls' aren't very endearing, but we have to do them. I make on average between 2-300 calls a day. I don't want to call anymore than you want to answer.)
I call your house on the phone. It goes to voice mail. I'll leave a message, mark No Answer on my call roster, and move on. After I call you in the morning, afternoon, evening, and weekend, I'll send a letter to your house stating that I've been trying to reach you, and to please contact me by the date listed, or I will be stopping by your house.
I call your house, you answer, and hang up on me. I'm calling right back, making some lighthearted comment about bad reception.
I call and you tell me your child's not interested. I'll respond with "I know you're not interested, but I need to speak with your child, ask him a couple of questions so I can scratch him/her off of my list." If you say no - I'm going to mark NH on the call list, and call again next week. Repeat ad nauseum. I'm not trying to be rude, but I have certain regulations I have to follow.
If I call and you tell me not to call again - well, I can promise you I'm going to be calling you every night for the next month. Again, I have regulations I have to follow. It's nothing personal. Once I speak to your child for 2 minutes, I won't be calling any more.
I call, speak to you, you tell me he's going to college - I'll mark college on my form, and be calling back at the beginning of the next semester to make sure that he went. That'll repeat itself two more times through the start of the second semester. Statistically if people go to college and make it through their second semester, they're going to graduate.
I call , speak to you and you tell me he's mentally disabled - I'm going to mark it down on my paper as DQ - and then I'm going to go verify it with the guidance counselor or the special education teacher under the pretense as I don't want to bother other special education children at home. Don't lie to a recruiter and tell us your kid's mentally handicapped when he's not. That's just wrong. (The kid who's parent did that actually ended up enlisting.)
Okay, we've ran through a lot of scenarios. So let me explain what we're going to ask your son/daughter when we speak to them.
First off, I'm going to ask them about high school, sports, activites, and such. This is so I can get a better understanding of their needs and interests. Next, I'm going to ask them their birthday. This is to ensure they're age qualified. Ater that is where they were born. This is to ensure they're citizenship qualified. Next, i'm going to ask them if they've ever had trouble with the law to ensure they're morally qualified. If they've had a ticket or police involvement, I'll ask them what it is, how long ago, and whether or not it's closed. If you're on probation, you can't enlist. (exception is NG I think)
I'm going to ask them about drug use - we don't want any druggies in the military. I'll ask them if they're a senior on track to graduate with their class, or if they graduated with a high school diploma. I'll ask them what level of math they've taken (gives me an idea of how well they're going to do on the Enlisted Screening Test) and I'll ask them their height and weight, make sure they're within our standards.
Next is the biggy - medical. We use a 'ditty' to remember the medical screening. This is where we disqualify most people.
I - Implants. (Not breast implants, but medical implants. Pins, plates, screws, and the like.)
C - Counselling. Have they ever seen a counsellor for any reason (other than guidance counsellor)
O - Operations. Have they ever spent anytime inside of a hospital for any reason?
M - Medication. Have they ever taken any mind or mood altering medication to include zoloft, ritalin, or prozac
B - Breathing. Do they have any breathing related issues such as asthma or tuberculosis?
A - Allergies. Do they have any allergies to common foods or medications ?
T - Tattoos /Piercings. Do they have any? Where, what, why did they get it, what does it mean to them ?
V - Vision. Do they wear glasses/contacts/have any vision problems?
A - Audio. Do they have any problems with their hearing ?
If they're completely qualified, but not interested, we'll put their information on a card, and action date that card for 3 months. Why? Again, statistics have shown that situations change every 3 months. So in 3 months we'll call them again, see how things are going for them. If they're still happy with their situation, we'll just bump it out another 3 months.
If they're disqualified , we'll tell them they are and why, encourage them to look at alternatives such as college or secondary training, and then thank them for their time.
Now, for you parents who don't want your children to enlist - a few suggestions.
1. Be polite to the recruiter. Yelling at us/hanging up on us/being rude is only going to turn it into a competition.
2. Let us talk to the kid. We're not magicians. We can't make someone who's not interested enlist unless they want to. No one would go through the physical at MEPS without wanting to.
3. Have your child be completely honest. Don't lie about being disqualified. Just answer the questions, tell us you're not interested, and we'll be on our way.
4. The military has changed a LOT in the last 2 decades. Ask questions. Most likely how it was when you were in , is not how it is now. Times change.
5. if your son/daughter does have a legitimate medical condition (paralysis, mentally disabled, asthma) don't yell at us for calling. We don't know these things. Tell us, we'll ask a couple of questions (especially if we don't know what it is, again don't be insulted by that, we're just trying to learn) and we'll be on our way.
If you put this information to good use, I think you'll find that dealing with military recruiters will be much more straightforward and much less stressful for everyone involved, whether or not your child wants to enlist.