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Army Recruiting Commander Briefing

Presenters: Major General Michael D. Rochelle, U.S. Army Recruiting Commander
May 20, 2005 1:30 PM EDT
Army Recruiting Commander Briefing

            STAFF:  Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

 

            As you know, our Army is a people business, and our efforts to bring people into the force and then retain them in the force is an ongoing effort that's very important to us.  Ultimately, what we're after is having the right people strength to fulfill our nation's needs.

 

            Our retention is going great.  Our recruiting is harder.  Today we've got the great pleasure of having the commander of the United States Army Recruiting Command, Major General Mike Rochelle, here in town and able to interact with you on some of the efforts that are ongoing within the Recruiting Command.

 

            As you're well aware, there's a recruiting stand-down that's ongoing today.  He'll talk to you about that and what the intent of that stand-down is.  He'll also talk to you about the approaches that he's taking within the Recruiting Command to meet the mission that we've been called to do.

 

            I would tell you that we'll release the videotape that he has used for his recruiters.  At the end of this conference, we'll have it available for you on a DVD at the back of the room, and that will be available.  And if there are subsequent questions afterwards on that particular release, then please address those to Army Public Affairs.

 

            So without further delay, Major General Mike Rochelle.  Sir?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Thank you.  Thank you.

 

            Well, good afternoon, and thank you for this opportunity.

 

            Let me say that for all of you -- today is a special day for all of us in the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.  It's a day in which we have taken a pause in a very, very intense fight, if I may use that analogy, to drive toward a very challenging recruiting mission this year.

 

            But the reason for the pause was sufficient to sacrifice the progress that we would make in one single day of recruiting, which is not insignificant, to refocus the entire force on exactly who we are as an institution and the fact that we must represent that institution both in word, deed and in even our very thought.

 

            As a values-based institution, it's -- that's what allows our Army, as we practice the warrior ethos, to go from one block of very intense combat to the next block, if you will, and render humanitarian assistance to even the enemy.  That's what our values represent, and it's no different in terms of how significant those values are for us in U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

 

            And with that brief opening statement, I'd like to take your questions.

 

            Q:  General, the -- it's my understanding that the abuses that have been discovered are blamed on the pressure that's on recruiters to meet quotas and the fact that their careers can be damaged if they don't meet their quotas.  I don't know how much good the stand-down has done, and I'd be curious to get your feeling about that.

 

            But are you going to ease the pressure on the recruiters somehow, so that they aren't tempted to step over the line?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  The very reason for focusing this as a values stand-down day was to get away from the possibility of relativism with respect to what's right and what's wrong.  Our values are immutable. I could easily have said we're going to have a recruiting ethics stand down day.  I could have easily said we're going to have a recruiting practice stand down day.  But what I said was, we're going to have a values stand down day, to take a look at who we are as an institution and what we represent by way of an institution.  There is no relativism there.  It's either right or it's wrong.

 

            Q:  Right.  But I don't think you're answering my second question, my main question, which is: is there a way to ease the pressure on recruiters so that they don't feel that it's a sort of life or death situation, at least for their career, if they don't get somebody signed up?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I don't believe anyone believes it's a life or death situation.  Is it challenging?  Yes.  It's challenging under the very best of conditions.  Today's conditions represent the most challenging conditions we have seen in recruiting in my 33 years in this uniform.  We are faced with very low unemployment; the first time that the all-volunteer force has been challenged in sustained land combat -- I believe that the total casualties are up over 8,000.  And in point of fact, we now have very, very low propensity to enlist, both on the part of our young Americans and likewise on the part of influencers -- and by that, I mean parents, coaches, other adults whose opinions matter to our young 17-to-24-year-olds -- to recommend Army service.  Those couple to provide a very, very challenging environment.

 

            Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q:  Could you explain why you think that parents and young people don't have a propensity to join?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I don't have a lot of research to answer that question, merely Department of Defense-level research that does tell us -- and it's a quarterly research -- biannually, excuse me, that does tell us that parents are less inclined today than they were immediately after September 11th to recommend.

 

            Q:  But if you don't have reasons, you can't address that.  Knowing that they are less inclined is one thing, but knowing why they are less inclined allows you to address the problem.

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, if we attempt to address every problem, I think it would simply water down our message.  What we are attempting to do is focus on the value of service.  And the secretary of the Army has launched a campaign -- (pause) -- a call to duty campaign.  I was going to say call to service, but it's in fact call to duty campaign, which elevates service to a whole different level -- elevates it to the level of patriotism; elevates it to the level of service to country, service to nation.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  I just want to return to Rick's question, make sure that I understand your answer.  You're saying that there have not been any changes or steps taken today as far as a standdown to reduce the stress that recruiters may feel by -- you know, by altering their quotas or any other step in that direction; correct?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  No, that's not what I said at all.

 

            Q:  Okay.

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  In fact, I --

 

            Q:  What steps are you guys taking to reduce stress?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  There are a number of steps.  First of all, the first one is to focus everyone back on who we are as an institution: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.  Those don't change with the size or scope of any mission, whether it's a combat mission or a recruiting mission.  It's as simple as that.

 

            Now, we are bringing to bear, and have brought to bear lots of well-being programs, many of which are years old by now.  For example, our returnees from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom, we put together a program over two years ago to ensure that we were supplementing the stress-reduction programs and stress- reduction initiatives that every deployed division was offering those young NCOs, we supplemented it in the U.S. Army Recruiting Command for those joining us, and we opened it up to their spouses, as an example.

 

            Q:  But the quotas remain the same?  You haven't --

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  The mission is the mission.

 

            Q:  Okay.

 

            Q:  Can you tell us about the quotas, how much it is per person per year?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  We expect every recruiter to able to enlist two young men or women each month.

 

            Q:  General, how concerned are you about the problem you're having recruiting African Americans and other minorities, but particularly African Americans, and what are you doing to improve that?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Not overly concerned, to answer your specific question, simply because the numbers, as you perhaps know, from 2000 came down from about 22 percent of all of our enlistments to relative parity with African Americans in the general population -- 13.4 percent, 14 percent, thereabouts.  So not overly concerned.

 

            I have in the past stated, however, that it seems to me that if we are denying anyone, anyone, the opportunity to consider Army service as a portion or as a way of lifting themselves higher in -- whether it's education, marketing value as a civilian later on in life, or the opportunities, life skills and leadership that Army service offers every young man or woman, then that's something we should not do.

 

            Q:  How do you account for the drop in -- or the problem you're having with African Americans?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I can't account for it statistically except to say from 20 percent down to 13.4 percent.

 

            Q:  But you have no explanation of why it's dropped that way?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  We saw the most precipitous drop immediately after September the 11th, most precipitously.  And it's leveled off at about the 13 -- 14 to 15 percent drop and has held pretty much steady.  That's all I can tell you.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  Tell us what you're doing today during this stand-down day.  What are the recruiters going through?  Are they doing anything different?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Be happy to.

 

            As General Brooks mentioned, you will get the videotape -- which is unrehearsed, so please don't be too hypercritical.  There was no script for that.  They're going to view that videotape, first and foremost, which is a message to every single recruiter from myself.

 

            Secondly, they will reinitiate, reassert, reassert their Army oath, whether an officer or a young noncommissioned officer, reaffirm that oath.  The secretary of the Army asked all of us to review the oath, and I seized upon this particular opportunity to take it to a slightly higher standard, which is to reaffirm it; that is, to re- administer it.

 

            Then we're going to talk about what those values mean, our Army values, mean to us in terms of our day-to-day operations of recruiting.  We are a very -- very dispersed command, and as a result, we rely on the personal integrity and the adherence to Army values of every single recruiter in order to be able to live up to the standards of those values.

 

            And I would like to take this opportunity to tell every single American that they can rest assured -- rest absolutely assured -- that we hold every single recruiter to the highest level of adherence to those values

 

            Q:  General, can you talk a little bit about the incidents of misconduct that you found that prompted this review?  I mean, how -- were you seeing an increase?  And what were the -- I mean, what were some of the things that you found that convinced you that it was necessary to do this?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, all of those incidents for which we have enough information to identify the individual suspected of having committed an impropriety is -- each of those is currently under investigation, so it would be inappropriate for me to talk about them in the specifics.

 

            Q:  How many of them?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I believe there's seven.

 

            Q:  Seven?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Seven.

 

            Q:  Are they all in the same place or different places?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  No, they're not all in the same place.  As you probably know, there's one in Houston, Denver -- (pause) -- and I forget -- no, that was Houston.  I was in Houston when that one -- they're not in the same location.  And they are under review right now -- under investigation, I should say.

 

            And since they will be coming to me, in most instances, for some level of adjudication, I don't want to characterize them any greater.

 

            Q:  But can you say, I mean are the kinds of things that are being alleged, are there similarities, are there trends of types of things that are being done or --

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I don't believe there are similarities at all.  They generally fall in the area of prequalification.  I don't want to get technical, but they generally fall in the area of prequalification:  drug use, high school degree -- high school diploma.

 

            Q:  You mean overlooking a lack of qualifications in those --

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Taking shortcuts.  I'll simply say taking shortcuts, which is simply not acceptable.

 

            Q:  General, can I ask you, just slightly off the topic, but what role does advertising play in generating recruits for the Army?  And is the Army's advertising finely honed enough these days?  Has it changed much since September 11th?  Can you talk about that a little bit?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  How important is it?  It's terribly important because it not only gets the Army's message of who we are -- the "brand," if you will -- in the mind of the target market, the young men and women we would recruit, but also the influencers.  And I should tell you that that's not a small challenge today, given the fact that that if you look at our society, fewer individuals than even 10 to 15 years ago have had Army service -- influencer, as well, and, obviously, our 17- to 24-year-olds.  Therefore, it's important for us to be able to communicate just who we are, our values, what we stand for, and what we have stood for for this nation for 330 sic [230] years next month.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  On the same topic, you've got that new series of ads out there focusing on parents now.

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Yes.

 

            Q:  I know they haven't been out very long, but have you seen any change in your recruiting numbers at all, or any change whatsoever in terms of --

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Nothing that I can attribute to the advertising campaign, which I think is your question.  It's a bit too early.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  You've talked about the -- sort of the outside forces that are damaging recruiting.  You folks have missed recruiting goals for the last several months in a row.  What do you change either in your command or the Army as a whole to try to get those numbers back up?  Is there anything more you can do or that you're considering to try to address those factors and get more people to join?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, among other things, we're appealing more to the sense of patriotism.  (Clears throat.)  Pardon me.

 

            We have done a lot with respect to incentives, and -- phenomenal support from the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff for the Army in the resourcing vein; whether it's people, dollars, materiel.  Total support.

 

            And I happen to know that the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff for the Army as well as the undersecretary met with Mr. Rumsfeld this morning.  I was not a part of that meeting; therefore, I can't comment on it.  But the resourcing -- the resourcing is there.  Everything we need to be able to provide incentives -- I'll give you a few examples.

 

            We recently raised the Army's monetary incentive for going to training -- when we would like a young person to attend training for the regular Army to a $20,000 level.  We took the Army College Fund from $50,000 to $70,000.  We have just recently expanded the 15 -- the National Call to Service Enlistment Option -- which is 15 months plus training, plus the individual ready reserve time or selective reserve time -- let me not mislead anyone on that; that's very important -- taking that nationwide, when it had been more narrowly focused as a test program to attempt to appeal to those who would otherwise serve, but are looking simply to be able to do so at a shorter -- for a shorter duration.

 

            I could go on and on.

 

            Q:  Have you noticed any improvements from that, or are you at sort of a point of diminishing returns of what -- (inaudible)?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  We clearly are not at a point of diminishing returns.  It's only -- it's only been several -- frankly, 45 to 60 days.  So it's still a bit early.

 

            Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q:  Yes.  Regarding the 15-month program you all rolled out just a while ago.  Wasn't the pilot program that ran in the 10 cities a little disappointing in the results you got?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Indeed it was.

 

            Q:  So why take it national?  And the second part of that is, isn't it more like 18 to 24 months, because it's training plus the 15 months.  Isn't that correct?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, no.  Well, you could say that.  But I did say it's 15 months service plus training.  So whatever the length of the training is -- if the training happens to be pharmacy technician, which is very, very lengthy, then that is spelled out for the young man or woman.

 

            Now, let me answer your question specifically, though, with respect to some reason why I think, personally, the results of the national call to service enlistment option was a bit disappointing.  When you only focus it in a narrow area, you deny yourself then the ability to advertise nationally.  The only advertising you can do is in that narrow market segment.  And it -- that is a diminishing return.  And that was one of the reasons I sought to take it nationwide, so we could advertise it more broadly.

 

            Q:  General, do you --

 

            Q:  General, on the -- I want to clean up some figures.  So you said that the cost was significant of the day of stand-down.  How many people do you anticipate would not be recruited as a result?  And you also mentioned the propensity to serve, even for the young people to enlist was very low, and it was measured quarterly.

 

            Do you have those latest figures?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I do not have the most recent figures, but we can provide them, for the propensity.

 

            And the answer to your question, what are we foregoing -- by the way, I hope that message is neither lost on this audience, the larger audience, and certainly not the command, that we are making a sacrifice here to be able to focus on doing the right thing.  That's how important I believe it to be.

 

            To answer your question, we would -- for regular Army and Army reserve, my estimate is that we are probably foregoing maybe a thousand enlistments today, perhaps.  Perhaps as many as a thousand.  Regular Army and Army reserve.

 

            Q:  I just had a follow-up question.  There's some legislation in the House that the Army has expressed concern about for potentially restricting future opportunities for women.  And they've said it may cause confusion in the force, may send the wrong message, especially in the area of recruiting when the Army's having difficulty recruiting.  What's your comment on that?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, I haven't read the legislation, so I can't comment specifically.  I've seen the news coverage of it, but it's not deep enough for me to really understand the proposal behind the legislation.  But I will say this.

 

            As a volunteer force, one, we are extraordinarily proud of the service of our women, valiant service, and a number of them, as you certainly know, having given their lives in service to our nation.  We are a volunteer force, and that means that we are open to all comers, male and female, every single race and ethnicity.

 

            Q:  General?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Yes?

 

            Q:  Can you comment a little bit more on the data on influencers?  I mean, how much further down is it compared to September 11th?  And is it simply that we're in an extended conflict in Iraq that's driving it down, you know, compared to the patriotic fervor after September 11th, or how do you explain it?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Let me see if I can recall the numbers.  I believe that shortly after September the 11th, the propensity for influencers was measured at about the 22 percent who would say, yes, I would recommend military service to a young man or woman of recruitment age.  And the last data point I saw, it's down to -- I think it's 14 percent, if that gives you some relative scope.

 

            Would I attribute it to any single factor?  No, sir, I would not. I think it's far more complex than that.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  Have you done a values stand-down before for the Recruiting Command?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I have not.  But I will tell you what I have done, and maybe it will help you understand where this comes from.

 

            First of all, let me say that some of the news coverage did make me more sensitive to the fact that there were some practices that were occurring that were occurring just below my fairly well -- I say attenuated -- radar.  And we have very, very good means of identifying aberrant recruiting practices.

 

            But, to your question; in October we had a safety standdown day as we got ready to enter the winter months.  We have recruiters in almost 1,700 recruiting stations all across the United States and outside the United States, and I wanted to refocus them on safety.  So we stood the command down for a day in October to take a look at safety.  We were also beginning to see some actions like what occurred in Seattle on the campuses, were recruiters were accosted by students.  There were some things occurring in stations, that do not make it into the media, where threats are made against recruiters.  There was a -- I don't want to go into the details of this for fear of creating copycats.  But, in December, we stood the command -- I stood the command down for a force protection security day.  Did not make the papers.  Did not make the news.

 

            And so when I stood the command down for a values day, I was shocked at the attention it got because it was just a natural thing to do for me for something that I was very concerned about and that I knew I needed to refocus my force on so that we would be able to represent the American people in the way that I know most of my -- overwhelmingly, the majority of my recruiters do.

 

            Q:  General, do you have forecasts for May and June?  And also, do you have an early forecast for FY '05?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I do not.  It's too early for '05.  And I'm not going to make projections for individual months.  In fact, I don't think I'll do that next year at all.  (Laughter.)

 

            Q:  Would you just go over this year so far, just to make sure we're all on the same page with numbers?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, let me tell you that right now, through April, we are 6,600 below the glide that I would -- that would place us right on par with achieving the mission.  I'll simply leave it at that.  That's the regular Army side -- mission.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q:  Just a couple of numbers, clarifications.  When you say forgoing up to a thousand recruits, do you mean that those are a thousand people who would have joined the Army but won't?  Or is that a thousand people you may get on Monday or later on?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, I would hope we would get them later on.  But it's -- we would forgo the potential, we would forgo the potential for up to a thousand enlistments as a result of today's actions.

 

            Q:  And second, on the influencers, the propensity of influencers to recommend -- did you say Army service or did you say military service?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  That's a good question.  I think the quote -- I think the figure I cited was military service.  Thank you for that correction.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q:  Sir, what happens to the recruiters who cannot meet the two recruitments-a-month quota?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  As I've answered that question in the past, the answer is to always seek the training option first.  This is not something that our recruiters come into the Army expecting to do on behalf of the Army, but the Army has asked them to do this very challenging mission, and they give it everything they have, because that's the way we build our NCO corps.  That's why we have an NCO corps as good as it is.

 

            But the overwhelming majority of them are infantrymen, artillerymen, truck drivers.  And they do this for three years, and then they go back to that assignment.

 

            The first alternative is always training, always.  And that is to refine the techniques of how you tell the Army story to a young man or woman in such a way as to have it overwhelmingly compelling.

 

            Q:  So you're saying that if they miss the quota, they'll be given more training?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Exactly.

 

            Q:  And there won't be any disciplinary action or -- because a lot of the reports said they were under extreme pressure, career-wise, and that sort of thing.

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, they're success-oriented.  That's part of what I'm attempting to characterize for you -- very success-oriented.  And the majority of them, by virtue of how tightly they are screened, have never failed at anything in their career.

 

            Q:  General, can I take you back to a statement you made?  You said, "We have very good means of identifying aberrant recruiting practices.  "What are some of those?  I mean, how do you do it?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  An example -- without getting overly technical, an example:

 

            If -- we can track an individual recruiter's success all the way through training base and into the first unit of assignment.  And our -- monthly, we have reports that provide us that information, and we are able to see where an individual recruiter has an extraordinarily low success rate in the training base.  That then becomes a matter of at least some sort of inquiry, if that helps you understand what I --

 

            Q:  So if I'm recruiting, if I'm making my quota or even more, but a year down the road, you see that 50 percent of those kids that I recruited aren't making it in the Army, failing out, for one reason or -- then you suspect me, you come question -- you --

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  We'd like to know why.

 

            STAFF:  Last question, please.

 

            Q:  Oh, please, not last question.  This is so interesting.  To close a loop on a couple of things.  I don't think you finally answered that question, which is what consequences do people face if they don't hit their targets repeatedly?

 

            Could you also bound for us how widespread those threats were on recruiting stations?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Threats?

 

            Q:  You said that you had a safety standdown last year.

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Oh, that's two different questions.

 

            Q:  Yeah.

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I see.  Okay.

 

            Q:  Oh, yeah.  No, I don't think you're threatening -- I don't think.  (Laughter.)

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  No.

 

            We can -- because we have a mission that is very, very important for our Army and, quite frankly, for our nation, as I've said multiple times in the media, I just don't think the American people, by and large, realize how much is resting on not only this success for the all-volunteer Army but, frankly, as we go forward in the global war on terror.  Because that mission is so important, if an individual cannot -- simply cannot be trained sufficiently to the point of success, then we have to send them back to their basic skills.  Now, that is viewed as a failure by the NCO, not necessarily by us.  And if that occurs during the initial stages of training, it is without adverse consequence.  That provision is there.

 

            To your second question -- bound the threats.  Far more than I am comfortable with.

 

            Q:  And one final thing.  You've dedicated your life to the Army, and all of your recruiters obviously feel the same way.  What does it feel like to have these, you know, repeated failures to meet targeting goals?  It must be very difficult.  It seems like a repudiation of what you all have dedicated your lives to.

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  I'll answer it -- I'll answer your question this way:  not nearly as bad as it feels to have someone walk away from our values.  Not nearly as bad.

 

            Q:  General, you mentioned just a minute ago the stakes involved here, you know, for the future, for the all-volunteer force.  I mean, what does happen if you aren't able to meet these goals?  If, you know, at the end of this year you're down, if the same thing happens next year, what are the implications of that?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  Well, that's certainly not for me to sort out.  What we have to do -- what I have to do is make sure that I am communicating, one, the significance and the importance of our Army values in recruiting in the most challenging time that the all- volunteer Army has ever seen; ensuring that I articulate well to the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff, who have committed their absolute and total support to whatever we need; and then, providing the guidance, direction to my force to lead them to success.  But it is a challenge.

 

            Q:  But is not the answer you have to lower your standards to get more people, don't you?

 

            GEN. ROCHELLE:  No, we will not lower standards.

 

            Thank you very much for this opportunity.

 

            Thank you.

 

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