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New Concept Brings More Contact With Recruiters

By Sgt. 1st Class Kathleen T. Rhem, USA
American Forces Press Service

WOODBRIDGE, Va., June 14, 2001 – Visit the DoD "Recruiting and Retention" web site at http://www.defenselink.mil/specials/recruiting/ for an in-depth look at recruiting and retention in the new millennium.

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Army Sgt. 1st Class Trent Riley works in his office at the new Potomac Mills Armed Services Recruiting Station. Riley is the senior Army recruiter at the experimental station. Courtesy photo.

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The military is shopping for recruits in a suburban Virginia mall, and Army Sgt. 1st Class Trent Riley is convinced it's a good idea.

"Visibility is the key ," Riley said of DoD's experimental, multiservice recruiting station in Potomac Mills Mall outside Washington. "This is a highly populated mall, and we're right across from Sports Authority," he added, noting that many young people shop at the sporting goods store.

The station opened with a lot of fanfare Dec. 5, 2000, in a major Washington, D.C., area shopping mecca. Mall officials estimate nearly 25 million people visit Potomac Mills each year.

The recruiting station's bright storefront-type entrance is designed to draw people's attention, and the many attention-getting devices inside are meant to keep people interested.

Several video monitors, including a big-screen TV, continuously play recruiting ads for the armed forces. Three interactive computer kiosks make information on each service's available types of jobs and benefits. There's no high-pressure sales talk from a recruiter.

"We get a lot of people who stand out there and just watch the commercials," said Riley, senior Army recruiter here. "I've had people come in and spend time on one of the kiosks and grab my card, then call days later and say, 'Hey I was in your station, and I've been thinking about the Army; can I come in and talk to you?'"

One of Riley's Air Force counterparts, Master Sgt. Betty Fortune, said she thinks it'll only get better. "The longer we're here, the more people seem to come in," she said.

Riley also believes having recruiters from all services in one location increases the satisfaction of people who come in for information. "They get to see all the opportunities available to them and compare the services," he said of potential recruits. "At that point, they're leaving with all the information they want. It makes their decision easier."

And the new station isn't just good for recruiting, it's good for recruiters. The station features workout equipment, showers and a locker room area for the recruiters' use. Riley said he thinks more stations like this might make the often-demanding job of recruiting more attractive to service members.

"A better atmosphere and work environment will always contribute to how people feel about their jobs," he said. "If you're in a cramped, small office with seven recruiters and no resources and no privacy, you're not going to be happy."

DoD leaders are reserving judgment on building more such stations in major malls around the country until they see how this one pans out. Defense officials have said they plan to study the recruiting statistics from this station before deciding to build more.

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