BOWIE, Md. --
A mob of Washington Capitals fans adorned in red, white and blue file past a few Marines at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Mar. 3. The Marines are dressed in woodland Marine pattern trousers, boots and black long-sleeve shirts. Their pull-up bar stands ready to test anyone up to the challenge. Some ignore the calls of the Marines to get up on the bar and bust out 20 pull-ups, while others try to convince the Marines to give them gear without getting up on the bar. Like everything in the Marine Corps, however, the prizes are earned, never given.
Items for the taking range from t-shirts for anyone who can do 20 pull-ups, to lanyards, baseball caps and water bottles for those who can’t. The presence of the Marines creates an atmosphere of excitement that draws in everyone from past Marines out for a night of hockey to people just looking to impress friends with their strength.
“What I like most here is the atmosphere,” said Staff Sgt. Nelson Hill, canvassing recruiter, Recruiting Station Baltimore. “So many of the people here remind me of myself when I joined the Marine Corps.”
The Capitals game was the first enhanced area canvassing (EAC) event for Hill, who has only been on recruiting duty for two months. The purpose of an EAC event is for recruiters to connect with and educate highly qualified men and women about the Marine Corps.
Hill’s sentiment is echoed by Staff Sgt. Michael Hauck, canvassing recruiter, Recruiting Station Baltimore.
“I see myself in the young people I recruit,” said Hauck. “Like me, they’re patriotic and want to serve their country. I think most recruiters tend to recruit men and women who are like themselves.”
A late hockey game and the gridlock waiting outside mean another long night for the recruiters.
“Monday through Friday I’ll work 10- to 14- hours a day,” said Hauck. “Add in a few hours on Saturday and I work between 65 and 80 hours a week.”
Despite the long hours, Hauck enjoys his job as a Marine recruiter.
“I didn’t volunteer for this, but I really do enjoy it,” said Hauck. “After 15 months of deployments and more time away training for deployments, it’s a nice change to be able to go home and see my wife and kids every day.”
Hauck is a veteran of two deployments to Iraq.
“My first deployment I went with Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Marine Division to Camp Blue Diamond, Ramadi,” said Hauck. “My second deployment was with Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 at Camp Taqaddum.”
During his deployments, Hauck served as a patrol leader and earned his black belt in the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program. Hauck also served as a weapons and swim instructor, in addition to his previous job as a satellite communications technician.
Hauck’s accomplishments prior to recruiting are evident looking at his desk. Awards, photos and mementos from previous units show the hard work he put in.
The hard work recruiters put in everyday also does not go without reward. In addition to the added time with his family that Hauck enjoys, a successful tour on recruiting duty can help a Marine’s career in the long run.
“Opportunities exist for meritorious promotion to sergeant, staff sergeant and gunnery sergeant,” said Hauck. “If you finish [recruiting duty] successfully, it really puts your career on a different path.”
A typical Thursday morning for Hauck begins with a trip to Duval High School in Lanham, Md. to talk to a class of seniors.
“I go to Duval every Thursday and Friday,” said Hauck. “On Monday and Tuesday I go to Bowie High School in Bowie, Md. I spend so much time at the schools that they’ve given me offices at both where I can meet with students.”
At Duval, Hauck is met by Brent Sullivan, a history and African-American studies teacher there.
“[Staff Sgt. Hauck] took me to Parris Island in January,” said Sullivan. “It was a good experience. I got to shoot an M-16 A2, do [MCMAP] and go on the [confidence course].”
Sullivan is one of two teachers at Duval who have gone on the Educators Workshop to experience recruit training first hand.
The Educators Workshop program takes teachers and other influencers to the recruit depots at San Diego and Parris Island. Once there, participants see recruits train, speak to recruits from their area and get the opportunity to do many of the same things recruits do, including getting yelled at by a drill instructor. The purpose of the program is to show people who do not know anything about the Marine Corps what some of the benefits of the Corps are.
In the classroom, Hauck receives a lukewarm reception from the students who exhibit the classic symptoms of senioritis, the debilitating disease that afflicts high school seniors who are on the verge of graduation. He begins his talk with the seniors by introducing himself and sharing his motivation for becoming a Marine.
“Who knows what happened on Sept. 11, 2001?,” asks Hauck. “Our country was attacked, so my younger brother and I decided to serve our country because our parents raised us to be that way.”
Hauck also explained his primary job to the students, informing them that in the Marine Corps the opportunity exists to work with cutting-edge technology, as he did working with communications satellites.
One opportunity in the Marine Corps that caught some students’ by surprise was the chance to be a professional musician and a Marine at the same time.
“If you go to Marine Barracks Washington on Friday nights during the summer, you can see the President’s Own and the Commandant’s Own bands perform,” said Hauck.
Hauck also touched on different scholarship options for college bound seniors, such as Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps scholarships.
“Now is the time to start thinking about your futures,” concluded Hauck. “We make it hard to be a Marine because we only want the best of the best.”
Following the talk with the class, Hauck knows he’s reached more than just the students that were there.
“I may not have gotten any of them interested in the Marine Corps,” said Hauck, “But they’re going to be talking about me now, to their cousins, their friends and their classmates. They’re going to be talking about the Marine that spoke to them today.”
By maintaining a constant presence at the school and making an impression on the students, Hauck has built relationships with many of them who greet him as he walks down the hall.
Hauck’s next destination is the guidance office at Duval. He greets the counselors in there, who all know him well, and makes his way to his personal office at the school. He sets up his lap top and sits a student down to take an Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery practice test. Practice ASVABs determine where a student is at and what they need to work on if they don’t manage a passing score.
“If someone doesn’t pass the test I give them the resources to study for it and my card,” said Hauck. “Until they can pass, they’re unqualified and I can only try and help them study.”
The practice test is the last item on Hauck’s agenda at Duval. Afterwards he heads back to the recruiting station.
Arriving back at his office, Hauck immediately sits down and begins making phone call after phone call, trying to find that one person that may be up to the challenge of becoming a Marine.
“My goal is to make 30 to 50 individual phone calls a day,” said Hauck. “The more effective a recruiter you are the less time you spend on the phone. A new recruiter will make 80 to 100 calls a day.”
The goal of all these phone calls is to screen potential applicants for physical, educational, moral and medical issues that may prevent them from enlisting. By screening over the phone, Hauck insures that the people he brings in to the office for interviews are qualified to become Marines.
“The goal of all the phone calls is to get qualified individuals to come in to the office and interview because qualified interviews turn into contracts,” said Hauck, who tries to get two or three interviews scheduled per day. “If I don’t make the calls every day then I won’t have anyone come in.”
According to Hauck, the most frustrating part of being a recruiter isn’t the long hours and monotonous schedule of visiting schools and making phone calls.
“The most frustrating thing for me is trying to justify for people why I love the Corps and being a Marine,” said Hauck. “I came to recruiting duty with the expectation that everyone loves the Marine Corps, but that isn’t always the case. Some people for whatever reason are against the military and what we stand for. You’ve got to have the guts to go up and talk to that person who just gave you the stink eye because after learning more they may find the Marine Corps is for them.”
Though the Marine Corps is an all volunteer force, it is closer to the truth to say it is an all recruited force.
“We’re an all recruited force,” said Hauck. “Of course we all volunteered, but someone had to find those volunteers.”
Finding those volunteers requires persistence and discipline on the part of the recruiter to get out there and talk to people rather than waiting for someone to walk in and say, “put me in the Marine Corps.”
“It’s rare that people walk in to the office ready to join without previously speaking to a recruiter,” said Hauck.
Hauck’s persistence in making phone calls, visiting his high schools and leaving a positive impression on the community has made him a successful recruiter. In his year on recruiting duty, he has put 20 motivated young men and women into the Marine Corps and continues to build his pool.
“In addition to the 20 contracts I’ve already written, I’ve got six people I’m working with who are trying to become Marines,” said Hauck.
If an applicant is deemed qualified and successfully enlists in the Marine Corps, the recruiter’s job is only partially completed. Upon enlisting, the future Marine enters the Delayed Entry Program and becomes a poolee. A poolee’s responsibilities are to graduate from high school if they haven’t done so already, stay out of trouble and consistently train their bodies so they are prepared for recruit training. Most poolees will wait up to nine months, from the time they raise their right hand and affirm their commitment to the Corps, to the day they ship to recruit training. During that waiting period, a recruiter keeps in regular contact with them, teaches them Marine Corps knowledge and improves their physical fitness. Weekly meetings allow Hauck to keep track of his poolees and monitor their progress.
Hauck’s pool meets with him every Thursday evening. They are broken down into two groups. One group stays back at the office and studies their knowledge or prepares for the ASVAB, while the other group exercises with Hauck.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen,” a poolee yells from the position of attention as he steps into Hauck’s office. Upon enlisting, Hauck holds his future Marines to the highs standards of the Corps, requiring them to give proper greetings of the day and call the Marines at the office “sir.” After walking on deck, poolees immediately head for the pull-up bar for a max set.
“Their level of physical fitness determines how much time I have to spend with them,” said Hauck. “A [physically fit] poolee will come in on Thursdays but I have one that comes in for an hour every day to work out. If [poolees] meet our moral and educational requirements, I’ll work with [poolees] on the physical aspect of it.”
Hauck puts in countless hours of work into every person he puts into the Marines but ultimately, it is up to the individual to perform when they arrive at recruit training. For Hauck, seeing a new Marine come home after he sends them to Parris Island is the most rewarding part of his duty.
“When they come back walking tall, 30 pounds lighter, that’s huge for me,” said Hauck. “The most rewarding thing for me is knowing that I have changed someone’s life.”