Nobody Asked Me But . . . Relocate Marine Corps Recruiting Centers

By Captain James Psyhogis, U.S. Marine Corps

Location

Locating recruiting centers in community shopping areas affords civilians open access to interact with the Marine Corps; however, the sales nature of the adjacent facilities could make prospective applicants wary. The environment creates the perception that the centers are simply marketing a product, in this case, military service. Recruiters must overcome this perception to build trust and ultimately present the opportunities offered by the Marine Corps.

In addition, there has been a decrease in shopping mall usage, especially among the younger generation. The shift to online-based sales has reduced the viability of many large shopping centers.

The Marine Corps has an opportunity to its reduce infrastructure costs by ending lease agreements with retail establishments and strengthening its online presence. Virtual recruiting can replace physical offices, and money previously allocated to commercial lease agreements could be redirected to advanced mobile recruiting tools and new recruiting tactics, such as targeted social media advertising.

Recruiters could be based at existing installations across the country. Every state is home to bases for some or all of the services, as well as Air and Army National Guard facilities and reserve centers. For example, Pennsylvania has three Army depots, an Army base, an Air National Guard base, a naval shipyard, and two naval support activities. 3

Recruiters would require minimal space at these facilities to use as a home base for weekly meetings or to process paperwork. Provided vehicles and the right technology—laptops, applicant tracking software, etc.—they would become mobile recruiting centers capable of conducting operations remotely. Recruiters who currently rely on their mall locations for walk-in traffic could switch to active targeted recruiting tactics to meet their assigned missions. They could plan their travel to maximize school and community visits while using the office space only during planning.

As the recruiting force shrinks, the area to be covered remains the same. Individual recruiting sectors can range from hundreds to thousands of square miles. Not tied to an office, recruiters could canvass large areas and maximize their travel time with mobile processing equipment that travels with them. They could spend more time in communities as they move from destination to destination.

Recruiters also might use public facilities or schools to meet with potential applicants. Preparing contracted individuals for boot camp could take place either on base or at local community parks rather than at the current recruiting centers, where space not only is limited but also not meant for dynamic physical fitness routines. The Marine Corps could reallocate funding to rent space at commercial gyms to enhance the physical preparation of applicants awaiting initial training.

In addition to financial and time advantages, basing recruiters at military installations also offers tactical recruiting benefits, such as the opportunity for enhanced interviews with prospective applicants. Similar to campus tours where colleges and universities present their resources directly to prospective students and their families, recruiters could walk prospects around the base to show firsthand military activity and technology. The extensive military infrastructure on base could attract young talent to explore the resources the Corps offers. This shifts the perception of recruiting from sales to career opportunities and positions the Marine Corps to better compete for talented young individuals who may be considering college over service.

Force Protection

Current facilities lack appropriate force protection for recruiting operations. Locating recruiting centers in shopping areas gives open access to all in a time of heightened security threats.

To create a more secure environment, recruiting centers have increased their force protection postures. 4 During fiscal year 2016, for example, the Marine Corps spent $80 million on force protection improvements for recruiting centers, including $8 million on roller shades and peep holes. 5 While these changes have helped security, they have largely removed the open access benefit afforded by locating centers among the community. Moving away from static recruiting locations could save the cost of upgrading the security at current locations.

Drawbacks

Recruiting centers located in shopping malls are visible and easily accessible to the public; relocating them to military bases might make it more difficult for the community to reach recruiters. Applicants who would have walked into a recruiting center on their own accord without recruiter contact first may be lost. Losing this avenue for contact could be offset, however, by the enhanced community presence recruiters would be able to provide as mobile force.

In addition, applicants interested enough to consider walking into a recruiting office could instead visit a website that would provide initial answers to their questions and direct them to provide their contact information for follow up by a recruiter. What was once office traffic could evolve into online traffic.

Recruiters also would be able to save the time spent on walk-ins who are unqualified for service and spend more time targeting more highly qualified individuals. This could minimize interactions with people seeking conversation instead of career opportunities to afford recruiters more time devoted to accomplishing their mission.

Further integration into the community in schools, at sporting events, and at local activities would replace the presence recruiters might lose by leaving their retail locations. Recruiting efforts could benefit from increased electronic communication, leadership, and support from base commanders and personnel.

A New Perspective 

Infrastructure change is only one part of an overall strategic change that is necessary to keep the Marine Corps competitive for talented young individuals, but the ability to lean out the present system and operate with efficiency and mobility cannot be overlooked. In an increasing high-tech force, the Corps needs to focus on creating the best recruiting environment possible to attract the best people available.

 



1. Michaell Hounschell, Eastern Recruiting Region Facilities program manager, interview with the author, 24 January 2017.

2. U.S. Marine Corps, Guidebook for Recruiting Station Operations, vol. 3 (Quantico, VA: 2015), 3-8.

3. MilitaryBases.com, https://militarybases.com/pennsylvania/ .

4. Dmitriy Zavyalov, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, mission assurance officer, interview with the author, 24 January 2017.

5. Hounschell, interview.

Captain Psyhogis is an aviation logistics officer with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 12 in Iwakuni, Japan. He previously served as the executive officer for Marine Corps Recruiting Station Pittsburgh from May 2012 to June 2016. He holds a master’s in human resources and organizational development from the University of Louisville.
 

 
 

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