Sept. 24, 2009

Richmond recruiters rack up recruits at Richmond International Raceway

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

RICHMOND, Va. — While many Soldiers had the weekend off, Virginia Army National Guard recruiters from the Richmond area spent Sept. 11-12 working on scouting out new talent to welcome to the ranks of the Guard.

  Virginia Guard Recruiters

A Virginia National Guard Soldier counts the number of push-ups performed by a race fan competing for a t-shirt or hat at the recruiting station at Richmond International Raceway Sept. 12. (Photo by Sgt. Terra C. Gatti, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

With a brand new Humvee, two trailers, a full-size National Guard race car and the aid of several volunteers, four recruiters from the Dove Street Readiness Center and one from the Thornton Mullins Readiness Center in Sandston set up camp at the Richmond International Raceway during the pre-race festivities of the Rock and Roll 400 Sept. 11-12.

Tracking the effectiveness of recruiting events at such large venues as a race or similar sporting event can be difficult to track, according to Sgt. 1st Class John Lewis, a noncommissioned officer with the Virginia Guard Recruiting and Retention Command.

“We can usually get a few direct enlistments from people we meet at the races, but the indirect results can't be measured,” said Lewis.

The recruiters stood atop the Humvee with a microphone and invited passersby to come and take their picture with the number 88 Dale Earnhardt Jr. car and to participate in the Physical Training Challenge.

The PT Challenge gave race fans the opportunity to gauge their ability to do push-ups and pull-ups. Those that could do 50 push-ups or 10 pull-ups were rewarded with hats and t-shirts bearing the National Guard logo.

While the recruiters were giving away prizes, they were also taking from the participants. Taking their basic information, the recruiters are then able to determine if they are eligible for service in the National Guard and find out if they would be interested in serving the commonwealth in its role of homeland defense and overseas missions.

  Virginia Guard Recruiters

Sgt. 1st Class John Lewis, a Virginia Guard recruiter, stands atop a Humvee to encourage race fans to participate in the PT Challenge at Richmond International Raceway Sept. 12. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

Events like these are a great way to generate leads, said Lewis.

“We are close to our goals and strive to exceed them. Our team at Dove Street will exceed our goals for the third straight year,” said Lewis. “I am excited about the new year. We are going to try some new strategies with a Mobile Career Center, a wrapped [recreational vehicle] that is essentially a recruiting office on wheels.”

This year the mission of recruiting and retention has gone through several challenges due to the state of the national economy as well as the reduction in enlistment bonuses and retention bonuses.

“With the reduction and deletion of many ‘incentives’ we still get the number of needed enlistments, but probably a more ‘committed’ group of enlistees as they are now coming for more intangible reasons,” said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Girardi an R&R NCO  “Such as courage, honor and commitment.”

“The reductions in bonuses haven't seemed to hurt us.  People join for many different reasons," said Lewis. “The education benefits and service to country seem to be the two biggest draws, not cash money.” 

No matter where a Soldier goes throughout their career, or what level of leadership they aspire to reach, they all start their careers at the desk of a recruiter. By keeping the quality Soldiers already in the ranks of the Virginia National Guard also helps ease the burden of the full-time recruiters, according to Girardi.

“If we do a great job with unit retention, then our recruiting mission is easier,” said Girardi.

“It’s a big job, and [a] big responsibility.”

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