Army Reaches Out to Adult 'Influencers' to Encourage Them to Promote Service
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 10, 2007 Anyone who watched the final episode of HBO’s “The Sopranos” series understands what the Army is up against as it works to fill its ranks with high-quality recruits.
When young Anthony Soprano Jr., “AJ” to his family and friends, expressed an interest in joining the Army, he met opposition from all corners. His girlfriend balked. His mother, Carmela, tried to dissuade him for fear he’d be deployed to Iraq. His father Tony, New Jersey’s mob boss, ultimately distracted him with a new BMW and an opportunity to make a movie.
The story may be fictitious, but the gist of the storyline is very real. Army officials are concerned that “influencers” – parents, teachers, coaches and other adults who influence young people’s decisions about military service – are increasingly less likely to encourage them to serve, said Maj. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman.
That trend is likely to reflect the protracted war and its declining popularity among the American public, she acknowledged. “Support for the war directly impacts parental support for their children entering the military,” she said. “There’s a direct correlation.”
Army officials fear that correlation is affecting their recruiting efforts, because despite what some adults might think, young people really do listen to them, Edgecomb said.
Recruiting numbers for June, released today, show the Army missed its goal for the second consecutive month. The active Army came up almost 1,400 recruits below its 8,400-person goal, but remains 741 recruits ahead of its year-to-date goal.
The Army Reserve and Army National Guard both came out on the plus side for June. The Army Reserve recruited 5,255 members, almost 400 troops more than its goal, and the Guard met its goal, with 5,342 recruits.
As they seek to boost recruiting numbers, Army officials recognize the importance of reaching out to adult influencers as well as prospective recruits.
They’ve dedicated an additional $30 million to the “Army Strong” campaign, Edgecomb said. The ads, which convey the concept that Army service boosts not just physical strength, but also strength of character and purpose, speak as much to adults as recruitment-age youth. They also encourage prospects and their influencers to learn more about the Army and what it has to offer.
Meanwhile, the Army is using other avenues to move its recruiting efforts into fifth gear, such as promoting its $2,000 referral bonus program and hiring more contract recruiters, Edgecomb said.
It’s also recognized that media headlines, even those about recruiting shortfalls, offer an opportunity to let adult influencers know that Uncle Sam needs them, too. “That’s one more way to reach out to the American public to let them know we need their support,” Edgecomb said.
“A lot of people have stepped up and joined the military. … We’ve got 70,000 soldiers who have made the commitment to serve in the Regular Army and the Army Reserve so far this year,” she said. “And we need influencers to continue to support their decisions and to encourage other young people as they consider joining the Army.”