WASHINGTON: Saddled by flagging enlistment and retention rates, the Army National Guard is unveiling an uncharacteristically aggressive recruitment effort.
The new campaign, known as "The American Soldier," involves direct outreach to potential Guard enrollees, as opposed to simply running commercials and manning recruitment centers.
"We're going out of the office and to the public," said Lt. Col. Mike Jones, the Guard's deputy division chief for recruiting and retention. "The days when someone would see an ad and then go to a recruitment office may be gone."
The Guard is now sending eight mobile information and recruitment centers (with another 12 in production) to sporting events and shopping malls across the country, increasing direct mailings to three times annually, and signing a sponsorship deal with NASCAR driver Greg Biffle.
The message the Guard is trying to get across, Jones said, is that young people can see themselves as not just citizens, but as selfless soldiers ready to respond to a crisis.
The target audience for the new campaign, Jones said, is college, junior college, and vocational-technical school students. In the past, the Guard was targeting just high school students
The Guard has been hurt in its recruitment efforts by a policy enacted as a result of the war on terrorism that requires many Guardsmen to serve 12 months "boots on the ground" away from their families as opposed to a more typical six-month deployment.
Congress has assigned $38 million in Fiscal Year 2005 for the Guard's marketing budget, according to Jones, though he added that an additional $26 million will be asked for through supplemental requests.