- More than eight years into fighting two wars, the U.S.
military finds itself in an odd but enviable position: All four
military branches and all six Reserve components reached their
recruiting targets, both in quality and quantity, for the first
time in the history of the all-volunteer force.
Eschewing the cold call
and hard sell for what it calls the "soft lead," the military is
employing the latest in marketing techniques to secure the
newest generation of recruits, who are plucked from an
increasingly select pool of applicants. In a turnaround from as
little as five years ago, United States Armed Forces enlistment
requirements have never been higher.
Good kids without job
"There are an awful lot of good
kids out there who are coming out of high school with no job
prospects or are having trouble affording college or donít see
college as the route for them. Thatís the prime recruiting
market," said William Strickland, a retired Air Force colonel
who commanded recruiting in the western United States.
Strickland was part of a committee for the National Research
Council that studied military recruitment and marketing in 2002.
Mankato leads the way:
For a glimpse at prime recruiting territory for this new
military, take a look at the southern Minnesota community of
Mankato. In the past two years, the Mankato area has had 143
recruits sign on the dotted line to join the various branches of
the military, with the Minnesota National Guard by far the
leader. Last year, the Guard boasted a 60 percent share of the
military recruitment market.In Mankato, the recruiting effort
has included things such as trucking in climbing walls at high
schools after proms to sponsoring tournaments when the latest
version of the combat video game "Call of Duty" comes out.
Knocking down conventional wisdom, it is also in places such as
Mankato where potential recruits are more likely to meet the
increasingly demanding standards the military puts on its
"Itís been a lot of long hours to learn what
the area is like and what the area needed, plus what the units
needed," said Staff Sgt. Lawrence Eustice, one of three Guard
recruiters stationed in Mankato.
Guard recruiters are all volunteers and receive no
commission or extra benefits for the number of recruits they
"They get paid the same whether the applicant
says yes or no," said Major Jess Ulrick, commander of the
southern Minnesota National Guard recruiting team.
Recruiters such as Eustice, who grew up in
nearby Janesville, Minnesota say a sense of community and a
desire to serve are motivating the high number of military
recruits in the Mankato area. Detractors say a stifling economy
and few choices are the motivation, reflecting national
The Mankato area lends itself well to the
pattern. Census figures show that 25 percent of individuals live
at or below the poverty level and that 28 percent of the
population 16 years old and above are not in the labor force.
The presence of Minnesota State University, Mankato, may skew
some of the figures, but the largest percentage (19 percent) of
the cityís population is between a very prime 20 to 24 years
Rural and semi-rural communities have always
been outstanding recruiting markets, experts say, because kids
want to get out of town. Blue-collar and middle-class areas are
heavily represented in the all-volunteer force because, on
average, potential recruits from poorer communities may have
lower test scores, or have difficulty meeting the physical
requirements. Recruits from higher-income areas are likely to go
through Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) in college or
enter the service academies.
Star Tribune; Front Page Story, Minneapolis, Minnesota June