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Memo for the Chief Marketing Officer

J. D. Pendry

In the January 17 issue of the Army Times I read an article simply headlined, Army seeks new ad campaign for better recruiting mission. Through nearly three decades in the Army, I like many other NCOs, met, led, served with, and trained the products attracted by the Army's different recruiting campaigns.

I was a soldier in the Army That Wants to Join You which was much different from being one in the Be All You Can Be Army. And Be All You Can Be recruits differ much from the don't have a catchy slogan yet, but we'll give you a lot of bonuses and college money Army.

The Army that wanted to join me was a desperate one filled with bad memories. Ensnarled in Vietnam, it was disliked and not supported by the American public mainly because of bumbling politicians who tried to sell them an unpopular war. It was suffering under the influence of McNamara's 100,000, drug and alcohol abuse, racial unrest and a severe shortage of first line noncommissioned officers. While transitioning from conscripts to volunteers it was dubbed the hollow Army and it probably could not have fought its way out of a drug-counseling center.

The Be All You Can Be Army conjures up memories of a crumbling Berlin Wall and the 100 hour defeat of the world's 4th largest standing army. It was a proud and robust Army filled with top-notch soldiers and noncommissioned officers. Units were manned, equipment was good and training was even better. There was much pride. This Army was accepted and respected by the American Public and universally recognized as the best Army on the globe.

Then came the draw down. When we sent nearly half our number away the message to America was we're not hiring. Good soldiers held over for Desert Storm were let go. One percent of body fat over the allowable was good enough to keep a soldier in a fighting position, but not good enough keep him in the draw down Army - even if he was good and wanted to stay. Many senior leaders insisted we were building down not drawing down. They spouted smaller is better and pretended we could fight two major regional conflicts (MRCs) at the same time. As we grew smaller the missions quadrupled. Many good people left, when given the opportunity, to reestablish stability in their lives. Outside our gates, the economy was doing great - the lowest unemployment rate ever for the age group we need to recruit. The high school graduates we insisted on were going off to college or getting decent jobs - many of which offered college tuition assistance. Somewhere in the midst of all of this we stopped recruiting warriors and began to turn ourselves into a college prep program. We recruited the Nintendo, couch sitting, softer generation. Our reaction to them was to sissy up boot camp and add hours of human relations instruction to basic combat training. Political correctness and consideration of others replaced telling the hard truth and direct leadership. Then, we became increasingly frustrated when our new soldiers showed more interest in what we recruited them for - college and bonus bucks - than what we needed them to be - warriors.

Our divisions are undermanned and the bonus bucks, college fund approach is not filling the ranks. According to Assistant Secretary for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Patrick T. Henry, "we are very, very concerned about our ability to make the [recruiting] mission during the '00 year." What's our plan for fixing that? We will hire new marketing experts "[they] will be people from the private sector with extensive experience with large corporations... There will be a chief marketing officer and under him or her, three marketing directors. Instead of saying the market is rich or poor, ethnic or what ever, will say: 'Let's look a the needs and interests of the market and find out why they want to join.'"

Maybe I'm naive about such things. But doesn't it seem odd that we would employ experts "with extensive experience with large corporations" to tell us why people want to come into the Army? Isn't that where we are now? I only had Marketing 101, but shouldn't we decide the type of person we want in the Army then emphasize the things important to attract that type of person. Identifying the right person for the Army means asking experts who walk around in combat boots everyday, not experts who walk about in a major corporate headquarters? Their advice will be on target and come much cheaper.

We want high school and college graduates if we can get them and we want to offer them some attractive benefits when they come. We cannot, however, continue to recruit people just because they are high school graduates who were attracted only by tuition money and bonuses. Instead, we need to recruit people because they want to be soldiers - warriors.

So Chief Marketing Officer whomever you turn out to be, may I offer some advice - free of charge? The Army needs warriors - keyboard warriors and combat warriors. We must recruit people who are committed to the right things.

There's much out there about the warrior ethic or the warrior spirit. Whatever you choose to call it doesn't matter. It's how you define it that matters. What also matters is that the person you bring to our Army must possess it.

Warriors:

  • Seek tough discipline. They want it for themselves and they want to be part of a disciplined team. Sell our discipline.
  • Understand and embrace strong core values. They do not shy away from or give lip service to commitment or selfless-service. Honor to them is a code to live by not just a word. Sell our values.
  • Stand for something. They see themselves as defenders and protectors of a way of life. They view serving to protect others as an honor. They are committed to the intangibles that you can't assign a price tag to. Sell our most basic mission.
  • See themselves as physically strong. They welcome strong physical challenges. Sell them the toughest no-nonsense physical conditioning they'll ever get - then give it to them.
  • Never settle for the minimum and are never happy with second best. Sell them our winning team.
  • Will tell you the truth even if it knocks your politically correct socks off. Sell them our integrity.

You still may not fill the ranks CMO. And if our recruiting problems continue we may be asked to fight two MRCs with less than ten divisions. So, your most important mission is to see to it that our recruiting efforts attract the right people. One recruit coming into the service because he or she is committed to being a soldier - read warrior - is worth a squad coming in committed to the college prep program and the bonus bucks.

© 2000 J. D. Pendry