FORT KNOX, Ky. –
A new way for getting the X's and O's to the new XOs has begun.
The U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s Recruiting and Retention College here sent its first Company Executive Officer Course graduates back to the recruiting field in November, with the next batch of XO students slated for early December.
Capt. Aaron Raidt, one of the RRC instructors teaching the course, knows first-hand how valuable the new instruction should prove to the companies getting the graduates.
Before becoming an instructor in late 2019, Raidt received one of the first company XOs in all of USAREC when he was a recruiting company commander in Fresno, California. The new XO had no recruiting experience. Raidt suddenly became akin to a coach giving X's and O's to a quarterback who never played football.
“I had to do a lot of on-the-job training,” Raidt remembered, though he was quick to say the training was not for lack of motivation. New XOs “are very willing to do the work,” he continued, “they just don’t know how to do it.”
Dr. Louis “Wes” Smith, RRC dean, formed the team that responded to that training need. Surveys were sent to commanders and first sergeants at companies with XOs already assigned. The feedback resulted in an outside-the-box approach.
“We said, ‘Okay, this is going to be a blending,’” Smith explained, referring to how the new XO course was created by pulling from his college’s pre-existing courses for recruiters, station commanders, company first sergeants, and company commanders. The mixing, he added, makes it “unique compared to our other courses.”
Instruction spans two weeks and serves as a sort of USAREC boot camp for lieutenants. It includes more than two dozen lessons aimed at prepping XOs for the road ahead.
“What we try to do is predict all the possible,” Smith said, “but that doesn’t mean they will do everything.”
Reading reports, market analysis, establishing partnerships, and recruiting ethics are a few things covered in week one. Station inspections, virtual recruiting, and training implementation are part of week two, along with lessons borrowed from the college’s marquee Army Recruiting Course.
It’s the ARC lessons that teach lieutenants how to establish rapport with and lead Future Soldiers, skills that Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, USAREC commanding general, hopes the XOs use at colleges and other places where trained officers have proven valuable.
“The CG wanted to make sure they got all that basic recruiting training,” Smith said.
1st Lt. Raymond Stronach, a recent course graduate, said he “put (his) hat in the ring” because it was new and he wanted to experience a side of the Army he knew nothing about. He got exactly what he wished for. Like the XO sent to Raidt in Fresno, Stronach was part of USAREC’s initial XO wave when he arrived at a Pennsylvania company in spring 2019.
The XO course didn’t exist yet and the former field artillery officer found himself in a trial by fire. He did what Soldiers do. Adapting. Overcoming.
“That’s why I wanted to do this, to be that first one through the door,” he said with a smile, acknowledging that he volunteered for what resulted in a gauntlet-style initiation to XO life.
Stronach reflected on his experience on the first day of XO school when he looked around at all the “strapping young lieutenants” there with him, most of whom had only been with USAREC for a month or so. Lieutenants have an OJT minimum of 30 days at their company before reporting to the RRC.
“We’re getting them pretty soon after that,” Smith said.
1st Lt. Wyatt Thomas, one of Stronach’s “strapping” classmates, left his combat aviation brigade at Fort Riley, Kansas, and reported to a New Jersey recruiting company in August. He immediately took a “deep dive into systems and analysis,” he said, and tried to learn what he could from his commander and first sergeant within the everyday chaos of running a recruiting company.
“There’s only so much they can do because there is a job to be done,” Thomas said.
Thomas learned the classroom knowledge he was lacking was not all he would gain from his two weeks here. Interacting with other rookie XOs offered perspective. It made Thomas realize “we’re all in this together,” he said. “Sometimes it feels like it’s us against the world. You realize we all have very similar battles.”
Another key component new XOs are looking for help with, according to Raidt, is USAREC lingo. “Everything is totally different when it comes to recruiting,” he said, before offering an example from his days in the recruiting field.
Raidt had been at his Fresno post for just two weeks when a higher-ranking officer asked if he had tried to “RENO” an Army applicant. No, the applicant “had never been to Nevada,” Raidt responded, unaware of the recruiting acronym for renegotiating a contract.
Raidt now laughs about the new-guy mistake and appreciates that the officer, following a good chuckle, offered kind correction. He knows his XO course can’t cover all the lingo in two weeks, but there’s a good chance it will save some from similar embarrassment.
The main goal, he said, is to fulfill the lieutenants’ universal “desire to be useful...to serve a purpose.”
“Everyone comes in here motivated,” Raidt added. “By the time we send them back, they are willing and able.”