Teaching Sailors to Change People's Lives
How the Navy's recruiting school turns fleet Sailors into recruiters
Let's face it. The most any of us can hope to accomplish in the Navy is to master our craft, leave a command better than we found it, and to train our reliefs.
However, in order to have reliefs to train someone has to initially find qualified young men and women and convince them to join the Navy.
That job falls squarely on Navy Recruiting Command, which operates 1,450 recruiting stations around the country and also in Japan, Europe and Guam. With 5,000 Navy recruiters working across America's cities and small towns, NAVCRUITCOM is tasked with bringing in more than 33,000 people into the Navy for fiscal year 2014 alone.
With most recruiters being fleet Sailors on a three-year tour of duty, it is imperative they receive the absolute best training possible. New recruiters attend a five-week course at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla., to learn how to find qualified future Sailors. NORU, or Navy Recruiting Orientation Unit, trains approximately 1,500 Sailors each year to serve in the field.
"My number one mission is to take Sailors and reenergize them, motivate them to love what they do - to love the Navy," said NCCS(SS) Tim Corelli, a senior instructor at NORU.
In five short weeks, these fleet Sailors learn everything from how to analyze a recruiting market to sales techniques. In fact, they learn a specific sales philosophy called VALOR, which stands for value oriented recruiting. Essentially, it shows Sailors how to identify prospects' pressures, plans and problems and teaches them how the Navy can help solve those, ultimately leading to that prospect raising their right hand to join.
"We teach them to take someone who is apathetic, and by the time they're done with them they are ready to join the Navy," said Corelli.
However, it's more than just sales. The staff at NORU also emphasize standards, both Navy personal standards and ethics, as well as recruiting standards. On the first day of class, all new students are given a height-weight measurement to ensure they are within body fat standards. Those that aren't are immediately enrolled in the command's fitness enhancement program.
"We are the face of the Navy out there as recruiters," said NCC Kevin Roux, an instructor at NORU and the command fitness leader. "If a recruiter is out of standards, that's not the image that we want to have [in the public.] We really need to make sure that we're on top of our game here."
The staff uses the Navy Operational Fitness and Fueling System as their guideline for teaching fitness. They hold mandatory command group physical training twice a week in the morning and FEP sessions are held two additional days per week in the afternoon.
"I'm a believer in the NOFFS program. I wasn't at first, but I know what it's done for me," said Roux. "You get out of it what you put into it. I find myself to be a better runner now."
For some fleet Sailors, the transition to recruiting can be a bit of a shock to their system. Taking someone who is a technical expert in their rating and teaching them an entirely new set of skills presents its own unique challenge.
"This is a whole new experience," said BMC(SW) Christopher Haywood, a new recruiter. "Being a boatswain's mate, I'm used to the fleet mentality. [Here] you learn new things about how to relate to people."
The instructors said they usually see some myths about recruiting cleared up within the first week of the course.
"Most of the time we're getting the top Sailors from the fleet," said NCCS(SW) Brian Banrey, a NORU instructor. "They come to recruiting to be successful, but when they get here they figure out that it's something different. They might be the best ET or best MM, but when they come here they've never done [something like this] before. They're learning a different trade, which sometimes can be a challenge."
The course culminates in a capstone exercise during the final week. Instructors role play as potential future Sailors and the students work in a mock recruiting station. Students are evaluated on how well they deal with a variety of situations, everything from an angry parent who doesn't want their child to join the Navy, to a prospect who changes his mind at the last minute and decides not to join.
"We deliberately make it chaotic," said NCCS(SW) Elissa Cook, a NORU instructor.
One myth instructors were quick to dispel is that Navy recruiters must lie to be successful.
"The reality of it is ... that it's so easy to get caught and ruin your career," said Corelli. "The last thing we want is for a bunch of Sailors in the fleet that can't do the job because they're not qualified. Eventually, I tell all these recruiters, 'Guess what? One day, guess where you're going when your three years is up? You're going back to work with those people that you put in. Do you want to work side-by-side with someone you lied about?'"
Instructors and students alike said the intangible skills of building relationships and learning to relate to complete strangers are the most important tools recruiters walk away with.
"As a fire controlman, I actually ran an ET division for navigational radar and GPS," said FC1(SW/AW) Christopher Campbell, who reported to NORU fresh off a tour aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). "As far as recruiting, the job is completely different. I'm interacting with people who aren't Sailors. It's a different way to approach them. It's more about building a personal relationship with your applicants and future Sailors."
Teaching the art of recruiting boils down to helping these Sailors find qualified people that can ultimately make the Navy a better place, said Corelli.
"You do change people's life," he said.
Editor's Note: If you're interested in becoming a Navy recruiter, talk to your command career counselor and your detailer.