AUGUST 29, 2019 – Caught in the midst of a strong American economy and the mission to man a growing Navy, the members of Navy Recruiting Command (NRC) are finding ways to maximize their recruiting efficiency and refine the scope of their outreach. This is in response to the national policy to grow the Navy to a 355-ship force.
A higher demand for more Sailors on more ships, combined with normal attrition rates from Sailors separating or retiring from the Navy, called for a recruiting goal increase to 39,000 new Sailors this year. This is no easy task. In fact, this goal is the highest Navy recruiting goal since the Vietnam era.
Recruiters have had to refine their skills, share experience with each other nationwide and build a recruiting plan that gets Future Sailors signed up with enlistment contracts or commissions. One method recruiting command has instituted to bolster their efforts is through a new technique called swarming.
The core of the concept of swarming focuses on the importance of location and people. NRC identifies an event that will attract a large number of people who are within the age and demographics that most likely would be interested in, and qualified for, military service. Some of the events have been pro-sporting events, Fleet Weeks or Navy Weeks.
After an event is chosen, a schedule is built around the event to capitalize on the increased amount of people. A special team at NRC headquarters in Millington, Tennessee, then chooses some of the top recruiters from around the country to attend the swarm and provide support to the local recruiting district or talent acquisition group located closest to the event.
This is when the term swarm becomes literal. Between 80 and 100 recruiters gather and then split off into teams and visit local schools, malls and other locations encompassing the main event. This mass presence of recruiters lasts about a week prior to the main event and it increases Navy awareness through organizations like the Navy Sea Cadets, Navy League, and Naval Officer Training Corps (NROTC), and to local centers of influence such as local government officials.
“Swarming is an innovative idea where we can take national assets and people from different areas around the country and use them to support the local recruiters in lead generation,” said Capt. Matt Boren, the director of NRC’s marketing and advertising department. “By centering this around an event that draws a lot of people in, it produces a very widespread effect.”
NRC’s virtual reality assets, the Nimitz and Burke, are also typically sent to the area to increase the visibility of the recruiters and open the door for more interactions with the public.
Since its conception, swarming has been done in Miami; Orlando, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; Minneapolis, Boston and New York. In addition to producing a jump in leads and contracts in those areas, the participants noticed a major advantage to this strategy.
“Swarm has been extremely effective in re-teaching recruiting basics,” said Master Chief Navy Counselor Franklin Tiongco, the National Chief Recruiter. “We focus on a positive recruiting experience and improving morale for the Sailors everywhere we go, and we don’t just focus on potential applicants; we’re raising awareness in all members of the community.”
The comradery swarming produces among recruiters is one side effect of the strategy that the participants have noticed since the beginning.
“My first thought was that I was excited,” said Construction Mechanic 1st Class David Smith, a recruiter in Minneapolis. “Up here in the Midwest we’re very spread out, so it’s a good opportunity to pull us all together and get some visibility.”
However, the recruiters were not always positive about the idea. There was an initial apprehension and doubt that came with it, but since then the effects have shifted the narrative.
“These big ticket events have been a burden to commands in the past because they are a lot of work and you don’t see the results immediately,” said Tiongco. “However, after we started showing them how to make it effective, everything changed. Over time, the leads start to turn into appointments to meet with recruiters. Then those appointments turn into contracts and it just keeps going. Their hard work pays off.”
This strategy is here to stay as NRC moves forward. There are 12 more swarms scheduled out to 2020, and a large part of the mission will be focused on outreach. Informing the public about the Navy and its option as a competitive career choice in today’s job market is an important part of that mission.
Navy Recruiting Command consists of a command headquarters, three Navy Recruiting Regions, 18 Navy Recruiting Districts and eight Navy Talent Acquisition Groups that serve more than 1,330 recruiting stations across the world. Their combined goal is to attract the highest quality candidates to assure the ongoing success of America’s Navy.
Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary S Eshleman
Navy Recruiting Command