Providence Marine shines as recruiter of the year
By Sgt. Jonathan E. Agee
| | November 22, 2002
MARINE CORPS RECRUITING SUBSTATION, PROVIDENCE, RI --
He walks down the hallway of East Providence High School as if it were his home. He recognizes the students as if he was a teacher in the school, but maintains a suave demeanor that allows him to relate to the teens. He walks with superior confidence and a smile, knowing that he will be able to help anyone who wants to take up the challenge of becoming a Marine.
Sgt. Kelvin M. Grant, Recruiting Substation Providence recruiter and Hampton, S.C. native, is at the top of his game and is recognized as the 1st Marine Corps District Recruiter of the Year for Fiscal Year 2002.
During the past fiscal year, Grant contracted 49 people into the Marine Corps and shipped 30. The numbers, however, are not what gives him success, according to his fellow Marines.
"He's an outstanding recruiter, and the numbers reflect that, but what makes Sgt. Grant so good in my personal opinion is his mannerisms and his ability to communicate with the target market," said Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cianci, RSS Providence assistant noncommissioned officer in charge. "He's very good when dealing with people. He's a lot more laid back and has the ability to talk to people on their level. He has the ability to make people feel comfortable and has outstanding product knowledge, therefore he can be put into any situation and get our message out no matter who he's talking to."
"When he first checked in I knew he had some good talent and I knew he was a good Marine for the job," said Gunnery Sgt. Gregory M. Cramer, RSS Providence NCOIC. "Grant's personality is very talkative, he is very friendly, he is very approachable and believable, he tells it like it is. He has a good natural personality for this business."
One of the most difficult situations Grant must face is the high school visit, but his relaxed style enables him to fit right in. Grant walks the halls and talks to everyone he comes in contact with. He jokes with some and is serious with others, but always gets the Marine Corps message out.
"I actually had the opportunity to accompany him to a high school visit the other day and it's unbelievable," said Cianci. "His ability to go into a high school with that age group and they recognize him and say 'hi' to him; they like him and like to come up and talk to him. All these things are what you would look for in a recruiter. Whether he's having a good day or bad day, he stays motivated. Every time he picks up the phone it's a new conversation. He doesn't let anything bleed into that. He sets the example as a sergeant of Marines very well. He also sets the example as a recruiter. He is very good at what he does."
"I've gone out with Sgt. Grant area canvassing at the high schools and he is very open and he just goes up to kids and introduces himself and just starts talking to them normally," said Sgt. Noe Ramirez, RSS Providence recruiter. "I think the way he just opens up to kids and makes them feel comfortable is the reason he's so great at the job."
For Grant, recruiting is about being a Marine and helping others to achieve their goals. He often reflects back to his own experiences and is therefore able to relate his personal situation with others.
"I was always thinking about it (joining the Marine Corps)," said Grant. "All my life that's all I wanted to do, but I gave up on it because my family wasn't too happy about the decision. One day I was sitting down and I saw the commercial; it was always what I wanted to do and I knew I need to do it -- and that was the defining moment right there. My parents told me they didn't want me to go to war and die and it was too hard and they wanted me to go to college. Now, every time I go home my mom is talking about me and trying to parade me around to all the family members and friends, so it is pretty nice ... I know what the Marine Corps has done for me and I want someone else to experience that. Really, it changed my life. I was 24 when I joined, so I thought I had everything all set and planned and I knew what direction I was going for, but the Marine Corps showed me that I really didn't ... that I was just a young immature 24 year old."
Grant's decision to join the Corps was a life-changing event, and for the applicants he recruits he likes to believe he is doing the same. Many times, his applicants are simply not informed about how the Marine Corps can help them achieve their goals and Grant is not only able to educate them, but also help them to be a success.
"I actually like doing it," said Grant. "The way I look at it is, yes the mission -- I have to have so many people in for the month, but if you think about it not as a contract, but as you just changed that person's life forever ... That's what I like doing. I like changing people's lives. I mean to actually have someone come up to you, shake your hand, hug you and kiss you and say 'thank you for saving my life, I was headed down the wrong path, but now that I'm a Marine I've got the world at my finger tips.'"
It is one thing to have an applicant thank Grant for helping them succeed in life, but it is completely different to hear it from a parent. Grant admits that the parents and family members are often the most difficult people to contend with, because they are the most concerned about their son's and daughter's well being. By the time Grant finishes explaining the Marine Corps, dispelling myths and showing the opportunities offered by the Corps, there is nothing but praise from then on.
"I remember one mother in particular who fought with me because she didn't want her son to go do it," said Grant. "After she went down there to see him graduate and they came back and he was 'yes ma'am, no ma'am,' she came up to me and hugged me and kissed me and said thank you."
Dispelling myths about the Marine Corps also helps Grant stay on top of his game with applicants. He has to compete with every war movie and bad thing an applicant has every heard about the Marine Corps and make them understand that the Marine Corps is not a movie, but rather a real life experience that will only make you better. Grant probes for the applicant's needs and then shows them how the Marine Corps will help achieve those needs.
"I'm looking for your needs," said Grant. "Everybody has some needs, as long as you know the difference between a need and a want. You look for those things and you show them how the Marine Corps can help you get it."
Explaining the Marine Corps to someone is just the initial step for Grant. Once the applicant is interested in the Marine Corps, Grant does everything in his power to ensure they will not only succeed in recruit training, but also be the best they can be.
"He showed me exactly the things I needed to be doing, the procedures, MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) and boot camp," said Pvt. Lester Laracuente, Marine recruited by Grant. "He kept encouraging me to come to pool functions and gave the making of Marines book and he told us that if you read that it will really help you out, and sure enough it did. He crammed that into me - learn the knowledge because it will help you when you get in. He definitely told me everything straight up. A lot of people tell you something and it's only what you want to hear. He told me things I didn't want to hear, and that actually encouraged me to stick with him, because this guy isn't going to lie to me. I'm glad I had him as my recruiter."
Although some of Grant's recruiting abilities are based in his natural ability to make people feel comfortable, others can be taught. And when it comes to recruiting, Grant is always willing to help out his fellow Marines.
"He jokes around a little bit, then also gives you the serious good pointers where it will actually help you out," said Sgt. Brent Boulay, RSS Providence recruiter. "His experience with how many people he's talked to ... He'll be able to add more to something or basically change the way you look at it."
"When it comes to interviewing, he's probably the best interviewer anywhere," said Sgt. Ramirez. "When it comes to talking to kids face to face he's the best. He gives a lot of examples and lets them know how the Marine Corps has helped him out by giving examples of things he's gone through. He's very good with analogies and examples, so the applicant can relate and understand. He's a very open, very motivated individual. He is the kind of person you look at and say, 'I want to be just like him.'"
Grant's performance is nothing short of outstanding, and explains why it was not difficult to determine him as the recruiter of the year.