Another hit taken in the Covid-19 pandemic is some military recruitment has dropped in the past few months. It has also forced recruiters to trade in-person talks with virtual recruitment sessions.
“We rely heavily on social media — Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat — to reach out to them instead of in person,” U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Brett Troxel out of the Paris recruitment office said. “We’ve taken our prospecting methods and turned them into digital methods.”
The coronavirus hasn’t affected his numbers, he said. Last year, the Army’s Paris office had 35 people sign up, and this year “we’re on track to surpass that,” Troxel said.
But not every branch has been so lucky. The Texas National Guard recruitment numbers are down this year, due to two factors, according to Staff Sgt. Cody Henry with the Paris recruitment office.
“We typically see about 15, and great years about 22,” he said. “We’re a little low right now because we transitioned from another recruiter to myself, and Covid-19 put a wrench in how we typically recruit.”
With the Texas National Guard members visiting Paris recently to help with Covid-19 efforts — first by disinfecting Paris Nursing Center and then helping the North Texas Food Bank distribute food boxes — local recruiter Staff Sgt. Cody Henry said he wanted to highlight how flexible the National Guard is. The guard allows for part-time service while its members receive civilian training in colleges or trade schools, allowing recruits to get full educational benefits for part-time service in the military.
“You can go collegiately or go into the industry of choice for on-the-job training,” Henry said. “That’s kind of our role. If we make them a success on the civilian side, they are going to bring those attributes to the guard.”
He said the National Guard typically gets overlooked when considering military career options because people who join the guard don’t leave.
“They don’t leave, but they come home and serve simultaneously,” he said. “They could be your grocery bagger or your waiter or whatever.”
The recent visits from the guard show just how mobile the guard is, Henry said.
“Wherever you need us, we can go,” he said.
The U.S. Navy recruitment office is based out of Greenville, according to Chief Petty Officer Raul Tarango. Their recruitment efforts have gone fully virtual because of the coronavirus.
“We haven’t stopped,” he said. “Let’s say a school needs people to come out and give a presentation. We can still do a Zoom presentation.”
Tarango moved the recruitment numbers question up the ladder to U.S. Navy Cmdr. Lara Bollinger, the public affairs officer for the Navy recruiting command, who said in fiscal year 2019, 37 people joined the Navy out of the Greenville office and in fiscal year 2020 39 joined, so numbers were up.
“Nationally, our numbers of recruits in January and February this year were in line with our projections, but we did see about 45% fewer qualified leads and prospects in March 2020 compared to March 2019,” she said. “We expect to see similar results from April 2020.”
The Navy did a major pivot to digital recruitment tactics about two years ago, she added, so they were fully prepared for Covid-19.
“Because of the transformation efforts Navy recruiting started two years ago, which are enhancing our way of doing business organizationally and technologically, our recruiters are well equipped and trained to recruit virtually,” Bollinger said. “They are working hard to meet the Navy’s recruiting mission by using social media platforms for virtual prospecting, as well as traditional telephone canvassing for potential applicants.”
The U.S. Marine Corps out of Lamar County recruited 12 people so far in 2020, and Staff Sgt. Nathaniel Daniel said those numbers were down from last year, but Marine recruitment is generally lower than most military numbers, he said.
“Unfortunately, to kind of paint the picture, without Covid-19, it would still be difficult because people think it’s the most difficult branch of the military,” Daniel said.
His office has been using social media and online video presentations to help boost the numbers, but he said it’s a bit harder because Marine recruiters are looking for those with certain qualities.
“You have to have the quality of embracing something that’s hard and overcoming that obstacle. In my opinion and experience, in the Marine Corps, we do more than give you benefits. Every branch offers benefits. We focus on you as an individual,” Daniel said. “The intangible is what we hit people with the most. If you’re in it only to get an education (then don’t sign up). If you are someone who is about the growth of yourself as a man or woman, (then join the Marines). We don’t want to bribe you to join the Marine Corps. The Marine Corps isn’t for everybody, but it sets you up for a lifetime.”