BALTIMORE -- December 2009 was not a good month for Staff Sgt. Douglas McGlothlin. Although he had done well during his first few months on recruiting duty, he had written zero contracts for the month. McGlothlin had to meet with his commanding officer for counseling. In the competitive world of Marine Corps recruiting, you either meet your quota or risk hurting your career.
“That really took a toll on me,” said McGlothlin, a native of Waldorf, Md. “I felt like I really let my team down.”
McGlothlin called Master Sgt. Kathryn Denham, who was his mentor when he was a lance corporal. She was able to give him some advice and before the conversation ended she asked him for his new address. A week later, he got a package from Denham that had a set of gunnery sergeant chevrons with a letter that read, “This isn’t for what you have done, but for what you will do.” McGlothlin hung the letter on his wall and allowed it to be his driving force every single day since then. He had those same chevrons pinned on his collar when he was promoted from staff sergeant to gunnery sergeant.
“It didn’t matter what I had done up until that point – what have I done today?” said McGlothlin.
When McGlothlin met with his commanding officer, he looked him in the eyes and told him that although he could not promise him that he would never write zero contracts again. What he did promise him was that he would never put himself in the position to let him down or to say to him that he could have done more.
“I believe in order for anybody to succeed, you have to fail,” said McGlothlin. “You have to experience failure in your life. How we bounce back from failure makes us who we are. It’s our character.”
Mcglothin has never gone another month without writing a contract. Recently, Marine Corps Recruiting Command named him the Staff Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year for 2012. Through his leadership, Recruiting Sub-Station Salisbury has sent 141 qualified men and women to recruit training since he became the SNCOIC there in December 2010.
McGlothlin certainly has come a long way since joining the Marine Corps 13 years ago. He was a high school dropout who had blown a potential soccer scholarship and did not have a bright future ahead of him before walking into a Marine recruiter’s office. He enlisted as an aviation operations specialist and deployed overseas four times before being selected for recruiting duty.
He had actually been selected several times to become a recruiter, but was able to get out of it because of a deployment. McGlothlin did not want recruiting duty. An introvert by nature, he had no interest in having to talk to people and trying to get them to join the Marine Corps. He had also heard a lot of negative stories concerning recruiting duty that made him feel it could have a negative impact on his career.
“It’s a really tough business,” said McGlothlin. “Your job revolves around an indecisive 17-year-old. At the time, I never really accepted it as a challenge. I didn’t want to be involved in that.”
McGlothlin realized that the stories he had heard were from people who did not embrace the positive sides of recruiting duty; they only focused on the negative side.
“One of the challenges working out here is realizing that everything falls on your shoulders,” said McGlothlin. “Your success belongs to you. Your ability to learn, your ability to adapt, make decisions, communicate – those are the things that lead to your success. The challenge is getting away from the mentality of, “well if I don’t do it somebody else will.” You’re leaders in the fleet; you have Marines who work for you. Out here, you don’t have Marines who work for you. It’s all yours. The transition can be difficult.
“Rejection is (another) big challenge. As Marines, we have pride about ourselves. Rejection is not something your average Marine deals with. You charge a Marine to do something, most of the time they’re going to take care of it. Here, you may have a 17-year-old kid tell you to go pack sand.”
Over time, McGlothlin not only embraced these challenges, but excelled at overcoming them. He was even able to mentor a recruiter he was in charge of and lead him to success as well.
Sgt. John Dial was an infantry Marine who had never quit on anything in his life. He was also what many Marines would refer to as a “leadership challenge.” Dial was laid back, he showed up when he wanted and did what he wanted. The workload took a toll on Dial and his home life. At one point, he expressed to McGlothlin that he was not sure if he was going to make it through recruiting duty. Dial was putting in a lot of hours at work, but not seeing the results. McGlothlin was able to lead him through it.
“The only thing I did was I held him accountable,” said McGlothlin. “When he screwed up, I let him know when he screwed up. When he did well, I took care of him…I think it was just basic leadership.”
Dial made it through recruiting duty alive and was a runner up for most improved recruiter for Recruiting Station Baltimore and was being considered for a meritorious promotion to staff sergeant. Before he left, he told McGlothlin that he wished he had him as a leader earlier in his recruiting career and thanked him for all that he did for him.
“I realized that I had an impact on his life,” said McGlothlin. “There’s no measurement, there’s no award that could give me the feeling that I got when he came up to me at the (Marine Corps Birthday Ball) right before he was about to leave and he said to me, “I never would’ve made it without you.””
Like Dial, McGlothlin is no stranger to putting in long hours at work. He is thankful for his wife, Tiffany, whom he refers to as his “rock”, for being patient and understanding.
“Spending a lot of time away from home doing the job definitely was a burden at first,” said McGlothlin. “It made (home life) a little tough. But I found that through communicating, just talking more, having a little conversation during the day saying how things are going was a good response to that.
“Now if I put in late hours or if times get a little bit tough, I can just call her and tell her. She’s very understanding. It’s okay to tell her I failed today; I didn’t do what I was supposed to do. Sometimes we just have to be real. Work can be very tough.”
McGlothlin has now been designated a career recruiter and will spend the rest of his career in the Marine Corps. Even though he has won numerous awards for his various accomplishments as a recruiter, he believes recruiting is not all about getting young men and women to sign on the dotted line.
“Impacting people’s lives is probably the most important thing,” said McGlothlin. “We have an opportunity to not only shape the Marine Corps, the future, but we have an opportunity to change people’s lives. Whether they join the Marine Corps or not, we get to sit down with America’s youth. Because of that, we become better communicators, better parents.
“At the end of the day, I’m not looking just to enlist this individual. I’m looking to learn something from them. Build a relationship.”