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Army, Marine Recruiters Shift Focus to Wary Parents

WASHINGTON — Faced with wilting recruitment and ongoing violence in Iraq, Army and Marine Corps recruiters are turning their attention to those most likely to oppose them: parents.

The two branches are shifting from a strategy that focused first on wooing potential recruits to one aimed at gaining the trust and attention of their parents by using grass-roots initiatives and multimillion-dollar advertising campaigns.

The public relations push comes as the Army and Marines, which absorb the brunt of the casualties in Iraq, encounter one of their worst periods in recruitment.

Among their initiatives:

•Four new “influencer” TV ads by the Army, aimed at moms, dads, coaches and ministers. The ads air this month.

•A decision to pair Army recruiters with Iraq and Afghanistan veterans on visits to the homes of potential recruits. The idea: Tell parents “the Army story,” says Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Pamela Hart.

•A nine-minute video, “Parents Speak,” in which parents of Marines say the Corps has been good for their children.

•A direct-mail campaign by the Marines to parents of high school juniors and seniors. The Marines highlight the benefits of joining and ask for an opportunity to talk to the students' parents about a military career.

Studies for the Army show parents are the top obstacles to recruiting. “Opposition to … military service is increasing significantly among both moms and dads,” says a study of 1,200 potential recruits by the firm Millward Brown.

Another look at potential recruits, by GfK Custom Research, found that the biggest influences in candidates' decisions to join were mothers, named by 81% of respondents, followed by fathers, at 70%.

“Reach the parents with the Army's new message, particularly moms,” the study urges.

Both branches are trying to convince parents their children will be instilled with integrity and job skills and that service in Iraq is not a death sentence.

Still, recruitment numbers sag. In February, the Army missed its recruiting goal for the first time in nearly five years. The Army missed its March goal by 32%.

— Rick Jervis
USA Today


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