BATON ROUGE, La. –
"Our Army remains a great place to be, and high retention rates speak to that…fewer still, we're finding, are interested in serving, and that's something that we are working very hard to change."
-General Randy A. George, Chief of Staff of the Army
Defense.gov, April 2023
Answering that call in fervent fashion is U.S. Army Recruiter, Staff Sgt. Joseph Smith, currently achieving historic feats of high order, that seem to address serious concerns of senior Pentagon Officials today.
‘Super Recruiter’ Smith, single-handedly enlisted 70 American citizens, turned Future Soldiers, in only 18 months—and the number is still growing.
Smith’s outstanding and historic recruiting numbers are right on time considering challenges facing Pentagon, namely U.S. Army, leadership.
This year, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and General Randy A. George, Chief of Staff of the Army expressed concerns, major changes and expectations towards the challenges of increasing recruit numbers.
“Recruiting is one of the most important missions in the Army and we expect to recruit 55,000 this year, which is 10,000 short of the service’s goal,” said George. (defense.gov, April 2023)
“The Army hasn’t met its annual goal for new enlistment contracts since 2014,” said Wormuth. “We need to figure out how to talk to that much broader labor market.” (abcnews.com, Oct. 2023)
Army recruiters are required to successfully process and enlist at least one Future Soldier a month.
In perspective, Smith is part of the 2nd Recruiting Brigade, covering the nation’s Southeastern region, which recruited 1,692 Future Soldiers last fiscal year; Smith’s recruiting efforts, alone, contributed 5% to that total number—almost 0.05 % of the entire U.S. Army, in one-year.
Even more, Smith, and his 2nd Recruiting Brigade led the national U.S. Army Recruiting Command as the highest producers of recruits within USAREC itself.
“I don’t think about how many Future Soldiers I can make, I think about how many lives I can change…that’s my motivation,” said Smith.
Smith enlisted in the Army in 2012 as a Unit Supply Specialist and now recruits at the Lake Charles, Louisiana Army Recruiting Station since March 2022, already having 6x the required amount of a recruiter in a 12-month period.
“Each recruit I have turned Future Soldier has trust in me when they join the Army,” said Smith. “They relate to my story, see my passion; being from the [Louisiana] community helps because they also understand a certain struggle and witness my own success.”
The Army’s strategic decision to send him to familiar territory, found Smith in his home-state of Louisiana for recruiting duty, earning serious return on investment for the Army—but not without serious challenges, reminiscent of his own past.
Smith faces challenges that severely counter his recruiting mission.
In general, the recruiting profession thrives on dense populations offering higher numbers of people to engage, thus increasing chances of completed recruitment.
Smith does not recruit in a dense population; in fact, it is exact opposite in the city of Lake Charles, Louisiana.
According to Louisiana media, “[n]ew 2021 population estimates released showed Calcasieu (and Cameron) parish with some of the steepest declines of any U.S. counties, illustrating the severe effects…as the Lake Charles area struggles to recover.”
Calcasieu parish is the county where the city of Lake Charles resides with a population of about 79, 100 as of July 2022. (census.gov, Oct. 2023)
“After Hurricanes Laura and Delta, the city of Lake Charles population declined slightly,” Smith said. “And I understand that, what it’s like to go through multiple natural disasters and all the obstacles you get when ‘rebuilding’ your life…it’s difficult.”
With knowledge of these conditions and numbers before landing feet in Lake Charles, Smith refused to let his passion for the Army’s mission be deterred and decided to turn perceived weakness into valuable strengths.
“I know what it’s like to endure aftermath of a hurricane and how it can change your life…I survived Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and that makes for another point of relatability,” said Smith.
The New Orleans-native admits to a rough upbringing that inspired him into service.
“I look at my recruiting duties as a chance to give back to where I come from,” Smith said. “It’s only right my feet are here to do the work and offer the Army a life tool.”
Louisiana ranks the highest among American states for crime and correction; with the city of Lake Charles at a rate double that of the national average.
As a recruiter in familiar land, Smith leverages his ability to relate with his Louisiana community, presenting the U.S. Army as a vehicle to success.
Simply put, he understands his target audience.
“I have a personal understanding of the mindset of young high school-aged kids and working adults here [Louisiana] who experience unforgiving circumstances,” Smith said. “I use that understating to show Future Soldiers how the Army comes with dignity and honor that can help anyone transcend their current circumstances.”
Smith was recently honored and recognized for beyond exceptional recruiting during the LSU vs Army football tailgating event by General Randy A. George, Chief of Staff of the Army.
Gen. George journeyed from the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. to Baton Rouge, LA for official duty and made time to discuss his historic recruiting numbers.
During the encounter, Gen. Gorge asked Smith about the inspiration behind his stellar recruiting numbers and the reply was, “Passion!”
According to Smith, he keeps close tabs on majority of the Future Soldiers recruited under his tutelage as a promised kept from one Soldier to another.
“Once they join, I let them know you are a Soldier for life, no matter how long you serve, 2 year to 20 years, the Army will always have your back,” Smith said.
For more information visit goarmy.com, or to speak with Staff Sgt. Smith on how you can become a Future Soldier, contact 337-414-4000 or visit the Lake Charles recruiting station at 2908D Ryan St.