ALBANY, N.Y. –
She’s known for being sweet and soft spoken. He speaks his mind and isn’t afraid to put himself out there. So what connects these two?
“We’re married, and we’re both recruiting,” said Staff Sgt. Michelle Fernandez. “And we’re both in the same recruiting footprint,” added her husband, Staff Sgt. Juan Fernandez, with a laugh.
The Fernandez team is assigned to the Hartford Recruiting Company, one of seven in the Albany Recruiting Battalion. They’ve known each other for five years, been married for three, and have managed to get stationed together for every assignment in their Army careers.
“I’m part of the Bristol, Connecticut, recruiting team, and Michelle recruits for the Waterbury station,” Juan said. “We’ve been very lucky to have been assigned to the same state and company.”
It may not be unusual for the Fernandezes to be together geographically, as the Army typically does its best to put married Soldiers at the same duty station, but the fact they’re both recruiting in the Albany Battalion and in the same company is unique.
During this time of isolation due to coronavirus, the Fernandezes are doing their best to continue recruiting for the Army. Part of their success, not only during this pandemic but overall, is due to the fact they know each other well. However, they also attribute a key successor to their work that all Soldiers understand: Teamwork.
“We don’t look at one another as the competition,” she said. “We always work together to be successful.”
They say their recruiting methods are very different, which has made each of them successful in their own right. Regardless of their methods, though, Juan says they always help each other out.
“Michelle’s market in Waterbury is more urban, and potential enlistees want to get out of the area and make a better life for themselves,” Juan said. “My wife is really creative, so she finds ways to connect with them. That works for her. I’ve been using Instagram for a while, but Michelle just started going live with it a few weeks ago,” he said, “and I think it’s great, because now she can really connect with people.”
Social media is the new norm in Army recruiting with the ongoing pandemic, and Juan said he and Michelle often collaborate before trying out a social media platform. The two don’t just put their heads together on innovative ways to reach potential recruits, though. They also share their leads. If Michelle has someone contact her that’s in her husband’s area, she passes the name along to Juan, and he does the same.
“The Bristol, Connecticut, recruiting area where I work has zero colleges assigned to it,” Juan said. “Kids are excited about the potential of joining the Army and all it has to offer, but it’s parents who want their kids in college. I really have to sit down with the moms and dads and let them know their kids can go to college, and the Army can help with that. It’s not something most parents are even aware of.”
Engaging mom and dad means the Fernandezes don their Army polo shirts and go face-to-face with parents and kids via video conferencing and live Instagram sessions. They prepare each session with talking points to kick-start conversations. They even had a Soldier who had already completed Basic Combat Training go live with them and talk about his job as a military policeman assigned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
“It’s things like that – having someone on camera and live – that truly can make a difference when it comes to changing minds,” Juan said. “There’s nothing more powerful than a firsthand account of what it’s like to go through Army training, learn a new skill, and prepare for your future.”
Looking toward the future is something else the Fernandezes are doing, and they are already planning the next chapter of their lives.
“I came into the Army as a dental specialist,” Michelle said. “Because of the training I have and my experiences, I’ve got transferrable job skills now. I’ve applied to several colleges in the Connecticut area to become a dental hygienist, and while I’ll be leaving the Army within the next year or so, I’ve got 12 years of experience to take with me.”
Michelle is not only an excellent example of how the Army prepares eligible citizens for success while in combat boots, but also speaks loudly to the definition of teamwork. When she and her husband said, “I do,” they understood not only the depth of those words, but the commitment and teamwork it would take to be truly successful in both love and their Army careers.