Best in the Business
By Staff Sergeant Jeff Middleton
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | November 10, 2001
RECRUITING STATION NEW ORLEANS, LA. --
Most Marines who have worn the scarlet and blue trousers as the normal uniform of the day will tell you that recruiting duty can be a duty different than any other. Recruiting duty can be an uncertain and uniquely challenging tour.
To become a successful recruiter, according to an old career recruiter saying, one must have the skills of a statesman, the tenacity of a bulldog, a working knowledge of psychology, criminology, geography and slight of hand. A successful recruiter must also have the tireless energy of a bill collector and the honesty of a little league umpire, superstition not discouraged. For some Marines it's their mastery of systematic recruiting, for others it's their ability to talk to people or to be personable. For Gunnery Sgt. Gordon Miller, it just pulses through his veins.
In fiscal year 2000, Miller earned recruiter of the year for the 8th Marine Corps District, Western Recruiting Region and was the Marine Corps Recruiting Command Recruiter of the Year. This year, Miller went all the way to complete his mission... to be the best recruiter in the Marine Corps.
Miller began his recruiting career in February 1994. He is what you might call a natural. He grew up in a small town, and when he turned 17 decided that he wanted to be a Marine. While in the delayed entry program, Miller said he referred many people to his recruiter that joined the Marine Corps.
"He told me he would get me the referral credits and get me promoted while I was in boot camp," said Miller, "but it never happened. Still to this day, I remember that. That was when I learned the value of taking care of someone."
Miller attributes his taking care of people attitude as the biggest contributor to his success.
"From the initial commitment to when they are in the (Fleet Marine Force), I try to take care of them," said Miller. "If I told someone they were going to get promoted, then they were. If a poolee was having a problem in math, I helped them study. I (physically trained) with as many poolees as could come at (5 p.m.) everyday. Still, to this day I call them. My last few months at Recruiting Substation McComb, it became almost difficult because I've put 135 people in the Marine Corps and a lot of them call me. I'd spend hours a day talking on the phone to people I've put in who are stationed all over the world."
Miller says the success he enjoys now has been carried over in large part from the effort he put in during his first year.
"I didn't work nearly as hard this year as I did last year," said Miller. "The reason is because when you take care of people, they are happy and ecstatic about working for you. They tell friends you're a good guy. They tell people you're honest and all this helps your monthly mission. If you're fake or not honest, then that's what they will tell people."
Miller's first year was difficult by his account.
"You cannot be lazy," Miller says. "When you come out on recruiting duty, any
problems you have, you have to set them aside.
"You have to be a hard worker and try to make family time but it is going to be very seldom. I neglected my family my first year a lot more than I should have. At this point it has paid off and I can spend a lot more time with them, but that first year was difficult. You kiss your wife and kids on the forehead before the sun comes up in the morning and do the same when you get home at night. Some nights I'd sleep in McComb rather than driving home."
But Miller did not learn of the challenges that were coming his way by accident. Miller talked with a former recruiter who told him and his wife what to expect.
"We were prepared," said Miller, "not to the fullest extent, but we were prepared. My wife was in college and we lived close enough so she could go there, so I drove 1 1/2 hours every day into work. It really helped that we lived near family. If it weren't for my grandparents and my wife, I don't think I would have been as successful as I was."
Miller's grandparents, Gordon and Shirley Miller, were the ones who raised him. When Miller told his grandmother of his decision to join the Marine Corps, she cried, according to Miller. But his mind was made up. He had talked to other branches, but they didn't interest him. He met his Marine recruiter at Sumrall high school in Sumrall, Miss.
"He had a (booth) set up and that night he came to my house and talked to me and my grandparents," explains Miller. "He sold me and the next day I went to the (Military Entrance Processing Station). My grandmother was a schoolteacher and she offered to pay for me to go to college instead of joining. Today she is ecstatic about the Marine Corps. I guess she sees what it has done for me."
Miller's wife, Sarah, has been with him from the beginning. He was married 10 days before leaving for boot camp and he contributes her support to every success he enjoys.
Though it may be hard to believe, Miller did not do very well at recruiters' school.
"I was in the bottom 20 percent," said Miller. "I was never really good at
academics in the classroom environment. I learn better by applying things, practical application. I had a really good turnover, two months, when I came out here. I give that a lot of credit."
According to Miller, the recruiter he replaced, Gunnery Sgt. Joseph Hebert, helped him tremendously. The two of them would go to high schools together, meet staff, and set up appointments. If they left the school with three appointments, they would break up the interviews. Hebert would do the first and third interview, with Miller doing the second, followed by a critique.
"My first day I chewed out a kid who had earrings in both ears," said Miller, "acting like a hard (Noncommissioned Officer). He said you can't be like that because you're dealing with civilians."
Miller said he later started developing his own way of doing things.
"In recruiters' school you learn the basic foundation and product knowledge, but once you get out here you adapt your own style to the foundation you have. If you go to a high school and talk to a kid exactly like it is in the book, you are going to sound like an idiot. But if you use it in your own style, it works."
Hard work and product knowledge are two things that are essential to success, according to Miller.
"On Mondays, I kill the phone and set up three to five appointments for each day of the week," said Miller.
"Another thing that helped me is that I'm very flexible and know enough about a lot of things to sound like I know a lot," said Miller. "I played sports in high school and in the Fleet Marine Force and am very diverse."
Miller said he tried to get key kids to join.
"If you get a key man like a (popular) football player to join," explains Miller, "then four to five will follow. If you get a popular girl to join, then the same thing will happen."
Miller says there are 100 reasons that probably contributed to his success but puts the support he receives from his wife and grandparents at the top. And he always goes back to that lesson he learned the hard way when he joined to always take care of the people you are putting in the Corps.
While Miller may have missed out on becoming a private first class while in boot camp from referral points, he has more than made up for it with the lesson he learned and the success that has followed. Miller has been in the Marine Corps for seven years and was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant on Oct 2, 2001.
"I had a burning desire to be the very best recruiter there is," said Miller. "My goal when I went to recruiters' school, under a reenlistment option, was to do three years and leave as a Gunny. I expected to win (Marine Corps Recruiting Command) Recruiter of the Year last year and was really disappointed when I didn't. My RSS's attitude when I started out was that second place was the first place looser."
Miller has a few months left on his three-year tour and is now the NCOIC of RSS Monroe, LA. He is scheduled to go to career recruiters course and possibly will stay on recruiting duty.
Miller's commanding officer, Major Peter Venoit, said that Miller defines the term superior achiever.
"He is an outstanding Marine," said Venoit. "He sets the example and that is his strongest asset to recruiting future Marines. From day one he has enjoyed the challenge of making future Marines and has not slowed down a bit."
"Being a canvassing recruiter was very rewarding," said Miller. "I want to see how being an NCOIC is before I plan to stay out here for the rest of my career."