Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Local recruiters seek to maximize partnership with WWE

By 1st Sgt. Vaughn R. Larson
Wisconsin National Guard

Just as a Soldier needs training and experience to get the most out of his or her equipment, Wisconsin Army National Guard recruiters contemplated if they could do more with the National Guard's partnership with World Wresting Entertainment.

"If you don't have an understanding of what WWE is, then you really don't understand the talent or how to utilize it," said 1st Lt. Johnny Simmons, marketing officer with the Wisconsin Army National Guard's recruiting and retention battalion.

For example, WWE Superstars such as Eve Torres and Big Show have recently made public appearances at Wisconsin Army National Guard recruiting offices - also referred to as "storefronts" - prior to live events in Milwaukee and Green Bay to draw WWE fans. Previously, WWE Superstars had met privately with National Guard members as a gesture of the corporation's support for the military.

"It will hopefully give some understanding that we're here," said Master Sgt. Gregory Backes of the Wisconsin Army National Guard's recruiting and retention battalion. "It kind of puts us on the map."

To make those public appearances pay off, recruiters are turning to technology and social media. For example, Backes used Twitter to promote Eve's Milwaukee recruiting office appearance, uploading photos of Eve signing autographs from his smart phone with the Tweet message: "She's here!"

Backes is also developing QR - quick-read - codes to link Soldiers and recruits with recruiters' Facebook pages, informational pages on the National Guard website, and promotional events.

"The idea behind it is, not just the QR code, not just Facebook, not just Twitter, but combining everything in social media that's out there right now," Backes said. "I've recruited for seven years, and when you put up a poster you'd put it up in the arcade where your target audience was. Well, now your target audience is using QR codes, using Twitter, using Facebook. If theyĆ¢€™re going to the WWE event, our target market now is going to be on Twitter doing a search for WWE to find out what's going on with WWE. If we're on there and tweeting about it, they're going to see Eve is at our storefront, and maybe they'll head out. It's a common thing now. If we're not taking advantage of that, we're completely missing out on free and global marketing."

"For us in recruiting and marketing, it's more of a holistic approach, an all-encompassing approach," Simmons added. "That's why it's powerful."

The potential, Backes continued, is to have a WWE Superstar visit a National Guard unit. Photos of that visit would be uploaded to the local recruiter's Facebook page, tagging the Guard members shown in the photos. That makes the photos available to the Soldier's Facebook friends, generating interest and increasing the exposure of the Wisconsin National Guard - and perhaps resulting in some of those Facebook friends contacting their local National Guard recruiter.

"It's multi-level marketing," Backes said.

Another initiative is to create QR codes for videos of WWE Superstars talking about their support of the military and of the National Guard. Backes said that a WWE Superstar visit to a recruiting office means little to a Guard member or potential recruit living on the opposite side of the state.

"We can't bring everybody to a WWE event -it's very limited," Simmons said. "So we reached out to WWE - we know the talent supports the Guard, but not everybody has the chance to hear that. [The videos will] bring that WWE experience to them."

Simmons said he hopes the videos are ready to promote when the WWE returns to Milwaukee for a live television event in August.

But the new initiatives are intended to enhance, not replace, the traditional recruiting efforts. Eve's visit to the Wisconsin National Guard's Milwaukee recruiting office included static displays of uparmored Humvees and an inflatable canopy to draw attention to the location. Cards bearing Eve's picture along with information about her visit were distributed in the area, and WWE fans received various promotional items for Eve to sign.

"I absolutely love working with the National Guard, and all of the military," Eve said Feb. 19. "They are always some of my favorite appearances to do because everyone is just so appreciative and grateful and fun."

Eve added that the WWE prides itself on its support for the troops, noting that she has seen firsthand during three overseas shows what U.S. service members do on deployments.

"I realize that it's a choice that every service member makes to be there," she said. "They don't have to be there - they made a choice. For that reason I really want to support and help out all the service men and women in any way I can."

Wisconsin Army National Guard recruiters also manned a booth at the Bradley Center that night, giving away the same promotional items to WWE fans in exchange for a few push-ups.

"We've drawn a lot of attention with the [recruiting publicity items] that we brought out, co-branded National Guard and WWE," said Staff Sgt. Andrew Whelan. "Obviously WWE has a giant fan base, and it's a great place for us to interact with a big group of people in a huge venue, so it gives us a chance to mingle with a group that we don't get to see every day.

"I've handed out 20 business cards," Whelan continued, saying that he anticipates hearing back from as many as five genuinely interested people. "Anytime I can get in front of this many people and put my name out there, it's awesome. WWE allows us to bring to the table what we have to offer to an audience that doesn't know that much about the Wisconsin National Guard and what we offer."

Blue Ridge on Patrol in 7th Fleet

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mel Orr, USS Blue Ridge Public Affairs

USS BLUE RIDGE, At Sea (NNS) -- U.S. 7th Fleet command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19) departed from Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka for patrol Feb. 21.

Commanded by Capt. Daniel Grieco, Blue Ridge is manned by more than 700 Sailors, including embarked 7th Fleet staff and Marines from Fleet Anti-terrorism Security Team Pacific.

Blue Ridge will visit foreign ports to engage allies and strengthen partnerships across the Asia-Pacific region. Sailors and Marines will also participate in several community service projects with partner navies and local aid groups.

"USS Blue Ridge is departing for a deployment throughout the 7th Fleet area of operations and will conduct port calls to strengthen regional ties while training to maintain the crew's sea qualifications," said Blue Ridge Operations Officer Lt. Cmdr. Zachary McCarty.

The Blue Ridge Morale, Welfare and Recreation department offers service members opportunities to visit local markets, theme parks, memorials and other cultural sites during their time off.

"I can't wait to go shopping," said Culinary Specialist Seaman Lorena Cardoza. "Also, I'm looking forward to taking cultural tours and relaxing on the beach."

While Sailors will get the chance to enjoy rest and relaxation opportunities, Blue Ridge will be fully operational during the patrol. Blue Ridge will provide advanced communications capabilities throughout the 7th Fleet, supporting theater security cooperation, fleet coordination and engagement goals during the patrol.

The leader in bold, forward-presence at sea, Blue Ridge has been forward-deployed to Yokosuka, Japan for nearly 33 years. As the flagship for Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Scott H. Swift, Blue Ridge is instrumental in forging partnerships in the region while leading the fleet with its advanced shipboard communications systems.

Chairman’s Corner: The Military Health System

By Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 – I spent last week on Capitol Hill with our Secretary of Defense. The questions about our defense budget were tough — as they ought to be. The stakes are high.

There are no easy answers in cutting $487B from the budget, but we’re not the first generation to face difficult budget challenges. We’ll figure it out. The nation’s counting on us.

Health care costs generated a lot of attention. I welcomed the opportunity to speak about this important part of the budget, to express my concerns about further cuts that could come due to sequestration, and to explain how we intend to keep faith with our armed forces — not just through pay and benefits but by ensuring we remain the best trained, best equipped, and best led military in the world.

In forming this budget, we looked at all cost variables. Many of you will know that pay and benefits account for more than 1/3 of the budget and that health care costs in particular have increased from $19B in 2001 to $48B today. We had to act to slow this growth.

I want those of you who serve and who have served to know that we’ve heard your concerns, in particular your concern about the tiered enrollment fee structure for TRICARE in retirement. You have our commitment that we will continue to review our health care system to make it as responsive, as affordable, and as equitable as possible.

Face of Defense: Soldier, 51, Completes Basic Combat Training

By Melissa K. Buckley
Fort Leonard Wood

FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo., Feb. 21, 2012 – Army Sgt. Sandra Coast graduated from Basic Combat Training here Feb. 17, officially beginning her Army career at 51 years old.

The average age for an Army Reserve recruit is about 23, making Coast one of the oldest people to go through basic combat training, U.S. Army Recruiting Command officials said.

"Everybody in the world thinks I am a total nutcase," Coast said. "I just want to support our troops. I love all of them."

From 1982 to 1993, Coast devoted her life to the Navy. She gave up her lifestyle as a sailor to raise her son, Jeff, who ironically led her back to the military she left behind years ago.

"When Jeff graduated high school, he joined the Marine Corps. When I was at the recruiter's office with my son, I walked into the Army recruiting office and said 'I want to join,'" Coast said. Her previous years of military service allowed her to join the Army Reserve well past the age someone without prior service could join, she explained.

For as long as she can remember, Coast said, she has had a special place in her heart for troops and a hunger to serve.

"I have a friend in the Navy that was emailing me from Afghanistan,” she said. “It's his third combat tour in seven years. I don't know, I can't explain it. I just had this overwhelming desire to give back to the military somehow. I was doing the same job day after day after day. I can't live my life that way. There is more to life than this, so I ended up in basic training."

She was stunned to learn that as a paralegal specialist she would have to go back to basic training -- this time, Army style.

"I wasn't quite expecting to be running around with an M16 and all of this gear," Coast said as her training neared its end. "This is nothing even remotely similar to being a sailor. I was blown away by the total difference of it. We carried M16s during Navy boot camp, but we never shot them. Here we are shooting several times a week. Shooting this weapon with all of the gear on takes a toll on me."

Coast started preparing for basic combat training months prior to stepping foot on Fort Leonard Wood.

"Before the recruiters would even talk to me, I had to lose 30 pounds,” she said. “I went from sitting at home every night eating ice cream to exercising and watching what I ate. I also started getting up at 4 o'clock in the morning to exercise and tried to go to bed early at night. I knew I needed every advantage I could have to get through this."

Coast’s 10-week journey from civilian to soldier was spent in Company B, 2nd Battalion, 10th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Chemical Brigade. Army 1st Sgt. John Byars, her first sergeant, said his first reaction when he heard he had a 51-year-old headed his way was "Wow, that's strange." Now, Byars has a new perception.

"I was impressed, because she can do everything the younger soldiers do," he said. "She never expected us to feel sorry for her. She even got one of the highest Army physical fitness test scores in the company. She is a prime example that age is just a number. She ran faster than soldiers young enough to be her kids."

Coast even amazed herself when she came in second place during the test.

"I am still kind of blown away by that,” she said. “I even ran faster than all but one female."

The fitness test may have been a breeze for Coast, but she said one of the hardest things for her to adjust to was the divide in life stages between her and her roommates.

"Everything about basic training is pretty tough, but living with more than 30 teenage females is one of the hardest things," she said. But despite the age gap, she added, she was treated like every other soldier in training.

"We don't treat her any different, and we don't see the privates treat her any different," Byars said.

Coast agreed.

"They treat me as an equal,” she said. “The males, especially, have the utmost respect. They will do little things that they probably aren't supposed to do, like give me their seat on the bus and hold the doors for me. It's the little things that mean so much."

Coast recalled an incident during hand-to-hand combat training that was particularly tough for one of her battle buddies.

"We had to slap each other in the face. The poor guy that was up against me said, 'I cannot do this. I cannot slap her,'” she said. “I told him I would pay for his counseling when we were done. I was slapping him -- he finally slapped me."

As her graduation approached, she said the thing she was looking forward to the most was wrapping her arms around her son.

"I am thrilled to wear the title of sergeant in the U.S. Army, but the title that is also very near and dear to my heart is Marine mom. You can't beat that. I feel totally blessed," Coast said.

Marine Corps Pfc. Jeff Coast didn't think his mother was serious when she expressed interest in joining the Army, but recently he started seeing a side of her that was new to him.

"She is doing what most people her age would consider crazy," he said. "I think she is hardcore. I hope when I get older I am still active and do all kinds of cool stuff."

The Marine’s mother said she made it through basic training because of the support she received from family, friends and even outsiders.

"It blows my mind that I am able to accomplish this," she said. "I couldn't have done it without the support of my Marine mom friends. I get more mail from them than anybody. That support keeps me going. They are constantly cheering me on. Even random people around here will tell me they are cheering for me.

"At the dining facility the workers walk up and tell me they are cheering for me," she continued. "I cry pretty much every day. Not a lot, because it's not an Army thing to do I know, but it's mind-boggling to me how supportive strangers can be."

Coast said she is delighted to have reached the end of her basic training adventure, and that she’s thankful for all of the new experiences it provided.

"This has been very challenging,” she said before her graduation. “It makes me realize that I can do all of this. I got to do some really fun things. After the rappelling tower, I decided to start rock climbing when I get out of basic training."

Coast added that she also is looking forward to her life in the Army Reserve. She said she enlisted hoping to work directly with active-duty troops, but instead was attached to a reserve unit. But on the plus side, she said, she will be able to work near her son's reserve unit.

"I wanted to go active duty, but they are not taking people as old as me for active duty,” Coast said. “So I got attached to a virtual unit. Everything I do will be by the Internet and phone.”

Basic combat training left her with a new respect for combat soldiers and a new respect for herself, Coast said.

"Their gear is heavy, and they are doing this constantly,” she noted. “We have some really awesome troops out there. I am 51 years old, and I can do this."

Family Matters Blog: NBC Show Seeks Military ‘Unsung Heroes’

By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 21, 2012 – A new NBC show that rewards selfless people for their good deeds is seeking service members, veterans and their families to spotlight in some upcoming episodes.

The show gives people an opportunity to pay a deserving hometown hero back “for always paying it forward,” an NBC news release said.

“The network and producers really want some military stories as no one is more deserving than those who serve our country,” Jackie Topacio, the show’s casting producer, said.

The show will involve someone -- whether a friend, spouse, family member or even an acquaintance -- surprising a deserving person with “the ultimate gift.” The recipient can be someone who always puts others first, deserves a lucky break, is underappreciated, saved someone’s life, or has made a difference in other people’s lives.

“If you know someone special who deserves more than life has delivered, we want to help you surprise him or her with a moment they’ll never forget,” the release said.

You can apply to be on this show by sending an email to submit4castingjt@gmail.com. You should include your name, contact information, occupation, current photos of yourself and the person you want to surprise, and an explanation of why your friend or loved one deserves a special moment. And, apply soon. Producers are hoping to cast people in the next couple of weeks.

Also, since this show involves a surprise, producers are asking people to keep their participation a secret.

Build Wealth, Not Debt

By Chief Mass Communication Specialist (SW/SCW) Terrina Weatherspoon, MCPON Public Affairs

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- "Set a Goal, make a plan, save automatically" is the theme of the 2012 Military Saves Week, which began Feb. 19, as part of the larger nationwide America Saves Campaign, conducted in cooperation with the Consumer Federation of America.

Although the Military Saves Campaign is a yearlong effort, Military Saves Week brings in community and financial resources to help service members focus on financial readiness.

"It's important for everyone to manage their resources," said Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Rick D. West. "You really have to take care of your needs and balance your wants. As we all know, life is unpredictable. You need to be prepared. Every Sailor should be looking to a future financial plan. If you have not sat down with a financial counselor, you could be impeding your future security."

Start small, think big is the idea behind Military Saves Week. Personal finance managers (PFM) at each military installation are the key planners and organizers of all base Military Saves Week programs and activities.

"I encourage everyone to engage in the activities going on at their commands," said West. "Your personal health and well-being start by reducing stress. And financial stress is hard to manage if you become too far in debt. I challenge you to take a month and cut out the stops for coffee, make your lunch, don't visit the vending machines, and see how much you save."

Over the past five years, more than 100,000 military members and their families have taken the pledge to save money, reduce debt and build wealth over time. In addition, many military banks and defense credit unions promote Military Saves Week and offer financial seminars and special savings programs.

Visit www.militarysaves.org and take the "Saver Pledge." Build wealth, not debt.