Military using creative recruiting

High School junior Todd Brodie, right, talks with U.S. Army recruiter Staff Sgt. Toby Holland on Oct. 18, in Marion, Iowa. (AP photo)

By David Irvin: CNJ staff writer

A recent graduate of both Clovis High School and Marine boot camp is back in Clovis for a short stint as recruiter himself.

Marine Pfc. Mathew Anthony Turner, 18, of Clovis graduated in May from Clovis High School. He became a Marine on Oct. 22 by passing recruit training in San Diego along with 75 other recruits.

Starting Tuesday, he will spend about two weeks assisting local Marine recruiter Staff Sgt. Lauro DeLaCruz by talking with students at schools and around town about getting into the Marines, an activity he has already started on his own.

“(Boot camp) taught me to never give up,” Turner said. “I’ve been going to high schools, talking to kids at Wal- Mart (that I see), and to some of my friends.”

DeLaCruz says he spends much of his time in the community talking with prospective recruits.

“I sit down and try to find what is important to the kid. A lot of these kids, honestly, are undecided,” DeLaCruz said. “They don’t know what they want to do. I try to put myself in their shoes.”

Military recruiters today are taking advantage of everything from video games, inflatable obstacle courses and financial incentives to get their message to people trying to decide whether to join the military.

DeLaCruz said creativity is essential to finding new recruits who meet the standards for the various slots he has to fill, especially since he tries to teach his recruits the value of earning what they get, and tends to shy away from large financial incentives to bring on recruits.

“When I first got out here, I thought I could recruit anybody,” said DeLaCruz, who was recruited into the Marines from the Clovis office nine years ago when he lived here. “It’s not that easy. You have to recruit so many seniors, so many grads, you have to fill in the spots for the reserve units.”

He set up a “pull-up challenge” at the Curry County Fair where potential recruits do as many pull-ups as possible to receive prizes. He also sets up an inflatable obstacle course for the recruits to run through for five minutes as a way to illustrate what the intensive 13-week Marine boot camp is like.

DeLaCruz said he does not only want to fill his quotas, but also make sure every recruit is aware of what they are getting into.

“I start them here, so that way they know when they get in the Marine Corps (what it is like),” he said. “That way the kid can start here, and when he gets out there he can continue on the tradition we have in the Marine Corps.”

All military branches take advantage of the Montgomery GI Bill, college funds and scholarships as additional incentives to drawing recruits. The GI Bill is worth $36,000 to enlisted personnel starting college, and an ROTC scholarship can be worth up to $120,000.

With its troops stretched thin by the war in Iraq, the military forces are rolling out the heavy artillery to sign up recruits.

They have increased the financial incentives to join. They are spending $180 million on promotions that include ads on ESPN and a Web site that allows users to chat with recruiters at scheduled times 24 hours a day.

The Army produced a video game called “America’s Army” that simulates the experience of combat and teaches Army values, a press release on the Army web site, www.army.mil, showed . The game is one of the top-five games in the world, having registered over 4 million users online.

“A random sample of kids at recruiting stations will be put into (the games) … so they’ll show up (at basic training) more prepared and more confident,” Col. Casey Wardynski, director of the Office of Economic Manpower Analysis for the Army, said in the press release.

Each section of the game is previewed by real soldiers to ensure authenticity, Wardynski said.

The Army reported each new recruit costs the service approximately $15,000 in advertising, incentive giveaways, command overhead, civilian payroll and office leases for recruiting stations. As of Sept. 27, the Army had recruited 77,587 active Army recruits this year, matching its goal for the fifth year in a row.

The Air Force also has aggressive recruiting initiatives. Although the 27th fighter wing does not actively recruit in the community, Cannon Air Force Base is often used by recruiters to demonstrate the Air Force’s capabilities to potential recruits, said Capt. Andre Kok with Cannon Public Affairs.

“If a potential recruit had questions, the recruiter may determine the best way to answer that question is to show them,” Kok said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.