Face of Defense: Army Recruiter Offers Formula for Success
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 6, 2007 Every time he meets someone -- be it the newsboy, the bagger at the local grocery or the spectator at the high school football game -- Army Sgt. Charles “Rob” Myers mentally puts them into one of two categories: those he can recruit into the Army and those who can help him recruit someone else.
“When I go out and talk to people, if they’re between the ages 17 and 41, I automatically assume that they’re somebody who could join the Army,” he said. “If they’re outside that age group, I consider them somebody who can help me find somebody to join the Army.”
That mindset, along with an affinity for straight talk, has proven to be Myers’ key to success as an Army recruiter. Now 27 months into a 36-month assignment at the Martinsburg, W. Va., recruiting station, Myers is the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion’s No. 1 recruiter.
Despite operating in one of the toughest recruiting environments in decades, he enlisted 36 soldiers during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 -- 50 percent above his personal mission of two recruits per month.
This fiscal year is looking positive, too, with all signs pointing to Myers doubling his personal mission. Two weeks into the year’s first recruiting month, which runs mid-October to mid-November, he’d already signed up three soldiers. Another prospect had agreed to enlist and taken all the initial steps, but Myers isn’t one to count his chickens before they hatch.
Every recruiter knows the heartbreak of something going awry before a potential recruit leaves the Military Entrance Processing Station with a signed contract in hand, he said. “I never count on it until they’re in,” he said, hesitantly adding, “but I should have four by the end of the month.”
Myers said he had a lot to learn when he arrived in Martinsville for his first recruiting assignment. He credits Army Staff Sgt. Devin Duckworth, his station manager, and others with teaching him the ropes. “When I came here, I knew only the very basics, and I was trained along the way,” he said.
With solid mentoring behind him, Myers attributes his recruiting successes to hard work, straight talk and an ability to show people that they stand to benefit from serving in the Army.
Admitting he doesn’t like “to be second in anything,” Myers said the only way to succeed as a recruiter “is never to stop.” He pulls long hours, typically 8:30 in the morning until about 7 at night.
“There are a lot of myths about recruiting, that you never see your family and all you do is work,” he said. “The flip side of that is that if you do your job well and you do what you’re supposed to do on a daily basis, you don’t have to work 13 hours a day, seven days a week. You can actually set time in for your family.”
Myers spends most of his family time in the mornings, when he helps get his 10-month-old baby dressed, gets his other two kids off to school, and eats breakfast with his wife before heading to the office. Once a week, on his designated “family day,” he leaves work at 5 p.m. sharp to have dinner with his family.
Myers has become something of a fixture in Berkley, Morgan and Jefferson counties, which make up his recruiting station’s territory. He’s frequently seen setting up a table at Martinsburg High School to distribute fliers and key chains and talk to the students. He and his fellow recruiters often go to Friday night football games to throw Army footballs into the stands. They get to know people at the area unemployment office and local employers who pass along referrals.
“I know many people in the community, and they have my business card. They know my number,” he said. “And if they’re willing to help me, they will hand (a potential recruit) my business card or call me and tell me they’ve got somebody.”
When he talks to prospects, or the parents, teachers, coaches and other adults who may influence their decisions about the military, Myers knows he has to overcome two big hurdles: concerns about the war and Washington politics.
Myers concedes he’s lucky to be stationed in an area that’s open to recruiting. Community members tend to support the military and see it as an opportunity for advancement. “Overall, I say we are in a decent area where people are receptive to us. For the most part, they’ll let us into their homes to talk to their sons or daughters,” he said. “But we also have parents who say, ‘There is no way in hell I will let my son or daughter join the Army with the climate in the world right now.’”
Anyone looking for assurances that they won’t go to Iraq won’t get it from Myers. “CNN is out there. You can’t hide the fact that someone joining the Army has a chance of going to Iraq,” he said.
On the other hand, he said, some potential recruits want nothing more than to deploy to Iraq right away so they can take part in exciting missions like those they see on TV. He tells them they’ve got a good shot at going to Iraq, but again, offers no promises.
The official philosophy at Myers’ recruiting station matches his own. “You be up front. You tell the truth completely. You don’t sugarcoat it,” he said. “And if they join, they join. And if not, you haven’t dented your credibility in the community.”
Myers is quick to correct anyone who insinuates that he’s “selling” the Army. He sees himself as an advisor who helps people focus on their future and explains how the Army can help them reach their long-term goals. “You’re sort of a counselor more than a salesman,” he said.
When he talks to potential recruits, Myers recognizes that patriotism or family tradition drives some to military service. But rarely does he try to spark their interest by telling them they’re doing something great for their country.
The biggest motivator, he said, is showing them how the Army can benefit them personally. “We say, ‘Here is what the Army is going to do for you: They’re going to give you this much college money. They’re going to let you pick your own job, and it’s guaranteed. They’re going to give you this much of a cash bonus.’”
Myers said the Army’s generous options and benefits plans help potential recruits decide to enlist for duty that could include a combat deployment.
Much of Myers’ success boils down to his deep-seated belief that he’s offering potential recruits a great opportunity. “For whatever someone’s goal is, the Army has an option or benefit to help them reach their goal,” he said.
He said he understands his recruiting base and remembers when he enlisted in the Army while living in West Virginia, a few hours away from Martinsburg. Like many of his typical recruits, Myers went to college for a year. He soon found himself working as an assistant warehouse manager at a home-improvement store in Charles Town, W.Va., until the local economy took a nosedive and he got laid off.
When Myers started looking around for options, the Army offered him an opportunity to build a career, work toward a retirement, go to college with all expenses paid, and see places many of his recruits have only dreamed of. “The Army opens the door to the world,” he said.
After spending most of his career in finance and accounting, Myers said he believes he’s found his calling as a recruiter. He submitted paperwork to become a permanent recruiter and hopes to extend his assignment at the Martinsburg recruiting station another 18 months to serve as its next station commander.
In that role, he’ll help train other new recruiters as they take to the schools and streets and neighborhoods of West Virginia to recruit the next wave of military recruits.
Myers said he’s confident that, with solid mentoring, the recruiters he leads will experience the same successes he’s had. “For me, there wasn’t any magic. I wasn’t born a recruiter. It just took a lot of encouragement and mentoring,” he said. “And for whatever reason, I’ve really taken to this recruiting thing.”