Recruiters' Quality of Life Varies by Geographic
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 27, 1996 Each night between 8 and 10, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Baron Young returns from his recruiting office in downtown Philadelphia to his efficiency apartment nearby.
Two or three times a week, he calls his wife and three children in Fairfax, Va. The kids fill him in on what's happening at school. His wife tells him about her job. For this Air Force family, these calls are their quality time together.
Although the Young family's separation is an exception, it shows how recruiting duty affects a service member's quality of life. In this case, the family decided an unaccompanied tour would be best.
"We made the choice back when I began recruiting that we would be better off with me here and the family in Virginia," said Young. "You look at the cost of living here -- your car insurance is high and the rent is higher than what you'd pay for an apartment elsewhere. It's not worth the expense to bring them up here."
Recruiters have high-pressure jobs, and their efforts result in the force of tomorrow. Many, especially those with families, have extra pressures. Still, they are meeting their recruiting goals. Recent DoD figures show the department is well on its way to meeting its fiscal 1996 recruiting goal of nearly 200,000 new service members.
However, recruiters today face an audience less willing to serve in the military. In their competition against colleges, trade schools and local employers to employ today's talent pool, recruiters are spending more time away from home. A recent DoD survey of nearly 5,000 service recruiters found 59 percent work 60 or more hours a week -- up 11 percent from 1991.
Because of these hours, station commanders are seeing quality of life issues affect their recruiters. Many are doing what they can to help their staffs get family time.
"We may be mission-oriented, but we're also people with families," said Sgt. 1st Class Lucinda Tims, the Army recruiting station commander in Sierra Vista, Ariz. "There are days where we have to work late with [completing enlistment] contracts and interviews, but there are also days where we can knock off work early so folks can spend time with their families."
Tims said she tries to emphasize family outings, which build cohesiveness within the station. "We try to show the spouses what the recruiters do and educate them on why we work so hard and so late," she said. "At the same time, we're forming our own family support group we can use to help each other should something happen and their spouse isn't immediately there."
There's also time for new Sierra Vista recruiters to transition into their duties. Tims said she provides a window for new recruiters to find housing, get their kids enrolled in school and have the family properly settled before the heavy recruiting mission begins.
Not all station commanders have this situation, however. Army Sgt. 1st Class William Davenport tries to support family time as well, but faces a different recruiting audience as the station commander in Plymouth, Mass. He and his staff find little time to be with family while recruiting Boston-area prospects.
Davenport said New Englanders are generally tougher and more skeptical about the military. He said the attitude forces his recruiters to work longer hours. "I'm a family person, but right now my wife's running the household because she doesn't know when I'll get home," said Davenport. "It's the same for other recruiters up here."
Recruiters receive some compensation for their work. Those not living in government housing receive a quarters allowance and a variable housing allowance in certain areas. They also may receive a stateside cost-of-living allowance if assigned in high-cost zones. This is in addition to a $375 per month recruiting allowance.
On the other hand, the list of lost benefits must be considered. Most recruiters and their families live far from military exchanges and commissaries. Medical clinics, family support centers and other benefits associated with service life are often hours away. At times, the missing benefits and expenses create family hardships.
In Tucson, Ariz., Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Brad Lancaster has seen both the good and bad sides of recruiting and its effects on families. "You hear the horror stories. You see arguments, separations and even divorces over a recruiter's schedule," he said.
Lancaster said recruiting takes a lot of effort from the spouses. In many cases, he said, they become the disciplinarians, tutors, budget experts and everything else while the recruiter does his or her job. "Quality of life depends on your ability to meet mission," Lancaster said. "It's the same in every location. If you meet mission in this area -- at this station -- you're going to have a good quality of life."
Unmarried recruiters also need a break from the mission. Often, those without families nearby tend to work longer hours and take less time for themselves. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Azevedo, who works for Tims in Sierra Vista, said he often worked late to stay busy and ahead of the recruiting pace. Young, as a "geographic bachelor," does the same in Philadelphia.
"You have to admire their dedication, because this is not an easy business," said Lancaster, who supervises a pair of single recruiters in Tucson. "But you've also got to take them under control and get them involved in other things or they'll burn themselves out."
Like Tims, Lancaster has social outings that bring recruiters and families together. He said these are really important to the single recruiters because it allows them to become part of the team and gives them a chance to relax.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. John Wright, the station commander in Tucson, exemplifies the single person with good quality time. The Marines also recruit well in Tucson, which provides Wright and his Marine colleagues chances to relax, compete in local sporting events and live a comfortable lifestyle.
"All the Marine recruiters in Tucson are single, and we all love our free time," said Wright. "To get that, it's a matter of time management. We get at recruiting the minute we walk in and stay at it all day -- whatever it takes to get the job done. This station is successful, and so the quality of life is successful."
There are many differences in where a recruiter works and how they affect family life. In most cases, family members do understand the mission. Still, many count the days to when their spouses or parents return to regular duties and stop recruiting.
"After four years of recruiting, my wife will be ready for me to leave Philadelphia," said Young. "There are things we both miss, like being together on a base, being around other airmen and using base facilities that don't cost a fortune to use. There is a definite challenge to being a recruiter -- in more ways than one."