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ROTC Outreach Done Right

 

 

 
 
   
   
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Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets from the Western Michigan university run to the next event during an Army ROTC Ranger Challenge Competition held at Camp Atterbury, Ind. (Credit: SSG Russell Lee Klika)

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People, people, people—that’s why recruiting is so important . . . it’s the lifeblood of our business.1

Recruiting is critical to ensure the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps remains strong and attracts the best candidates. The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Outreach Program is a pivotal part of this enduring effort. Launched by the Judge Advocate Recruiting Office (JARO) in 2018, this initiative educates cadets about the JAG Corps’s mission and emphasizes the opportunity to become a judge advocate (JA) through the ROTC Educational (Ed) Delay Program and the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP).2 Offices of the Staff Judge Advocate (OSJAs) are responsible for conducting outreach events with assigned Army ROTC battalions in their region; and, they have wide latitude to shape these engagements. Ed Delay and FLEP officers have been a rich source of talent for decades, and the vitality of the commissioning sources depends on sustained, targeted outreach as part of a cohesive and effective strategy.3 This article provides practical tips to enhance ROTC engagements and build relationships with assigned units. While this article is focused generally on the who, what, when, where, and how to connect with ROTC groups, it is merely a starting point for discussion.4 Every ROTC battalion and host school is unique, and OSJAs should tailor their engagement plans to best connect with the cadets in their region.

Engaging Cadets: Who? What? When? Where? How?

Who?

The ROTC Outreach Program assigns OSJAs to ROTC battalions, and approximately two-thirds of the 273 Army ROTC programs nationwide currently have an assigned OSJA.5 If there is not an established relationship between the OSJA and the assigned ROTC battalion, members of the OSJA may have to use the resources available to find the appropriate points of contact, including: social media, the garrison commander’s public affairs office, or cold-calling local universities.

Senior leaders, including the senior paralegal in the office, should be engaging with ROTC cadets. Cadets who commission into their assigned branch may only interact with the battalion paralegal, as opposed to with a JA, in their first few assignments. The Noncommissioned Officer in Charge (NCOIC) of the OSJA can educate them on what a paralegal can and cannot do, as well as tell the potential future commanders what they should expect from their paralegals. In addition, consider bringing junior members from your office to various engagements, such as a recent JA accession who commissioned through an Ed Delay or FLEP. Speaking to cadets is an exceptional professional development tool for the junior personnel in your organization and can help build rapport and create resonance with the audience—especially with cadets interested in or considering the Ed Delay Program or FLEP. Further, bringing junior Soldiers from your staff will ensure that, as they move up the ranks and speak to future recruits, they will have the institutional knowledge to continue participation in these engagements.

If you are an active component JA, invite a U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) or Army National Guard (ARNG) JA to speaking engagements—or vice versa—and coordinate the timing of the speaking engagements with these other service component elements in your area.6 The U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command (USARLC) has twenty-eight legal operations detachments (LODs) throughout the country; their teams are dispersed throughout the community.7 The U.S Army Reserve Command has over 1,800 attorneys and paralegals dispersed throughout the country who are working in embedded slots. The ARNG units have JAs in most of the major installations throughout their respective states. Recruiting initiatives are not solely for the active component, and many ROTC students will not pursue active duty after graduation or be offered an active-duty commission. Instead, these students may elect to pursue careers in both the private sector and in the USAR or the ARNG.

What?

Now that you have an ROTC engagement planned and know who will be participating, what do you talk about during the visit? With the publication of a JAG Corps brochure, and an accompanying slide presentation, JARO has made the “what” to talk about easy.8 The brochure contains a brief description of the different areas of law, and you can use the brochure to discuss the JAG Corps’s core competencies and legal functions. While discussing the core disciplines, you can highlight your experiences and your path through the different disciplines. If you are speaking to your alma mater, tell a story or two about your path from that ROTC battalion to and through the JAG Corps by using the brochure as a guide. This is also an opportunity to discuss the fun and unique things you have done in the Corps, such as schools, deployments,9 or participating in a multinational exercise. Any engagement with the ROTC cadets should also include information on all of the components; this will inform the students of all of the potential paths in and through the Corps—including serving in a Reserve Troop Program Unit (TPU) billet in their community or serving as one of over 900 ARNG JAs throughout the various States, Territories, and Commonwealths of the United States.10

Other sources of conversation topics include the public affairs office or JAG Corps leadership publications, which have themes and messages for opening discussions. An easy place to start is the TJAG and DJAG Sends, JAG Corps social media sites, or even a casual conversation with JARO.11 You are not bound by the four corners of the suggested talking points, but keep personal opinions about current events within the bounds of good taste. If you are still looking for a somewhere to start, begin with Lieutenant General Pede’s emphasis on “Be Ready” as your theme. He has emphasized that each JAG Corps member must “Be Ready” for “battlefield next”12—whether that is litigation, ethics questions, or advice on the battlefield. To expand on the theme of “Be Ready,” consider explaining how the JAG Corps quickly adapted to battle the novel coronoavirus pandemic while transforming to conduct future multi-domain operations against a near-peer adversary.13 You could also highlight the related Battlefield Next podcast hosted by the Future Concepts Directorate at The Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School.14

Although the pay and benefits of joining the JAG Corps may be of slight interest to ROTC cadets, it should be mentioned. The cadets have usually calculated the military’s potential competitive salary as compared to the private sector and often know other benefits associated with military service—such as housing, insurance, and commissary benefits. They, however, are often not aware of FLEP, the availability of the Student Loan Repayment Program ($65,000) for Ed Delay active-duty selectees, the summer intern program, and the ability to earn certain law school scholarships, In addition, they are seldom aware of the ability to obtain a Master of Laws degree (LL.M.) during the pendency of their career.

When?

Cadets should be informed early in their careers about some of the hard deadlines in conjunction with their decision to apply for the Corps, especially regarding the Ed Delay Program. It is best to engage them early and often. Senior leaders may, and should, conduct outreach at any time; but, they should be aware of the timelines and appropriately tailor their presentations. When they conduct on-campus interviews in the fall, Field Screening Officers often coordinate ROTC outreach with those units located near law school campuses—especially with the Ed Delay program. United States Army Cadet Command establishes the deadline for Ed Delay program applications. The deadline is typically in the fall, and the selection board acts in conjunction with the branching process.

A potential engagement time is the first part of the fall academic semester. If you are trying to ensure the juniors are in the potential population of candidates, you should either speak to them earlier in the academic year or focus on first- or second-year students when discussing the educational delay program.15 For seniors, you should switch your topics of discussion to the FLEP program or provide information on how to join the Reserve Component and pursue a law degree while serving in the military.

Throughout the academic year, maximize the time to meet with both the battalion leadership and the cadets during the days of the engagements. This commitment will consume additional time, which is often in short supply in an OSJA; however, this investment will pay dividends for the Corps as well as for the Army in the future. If possible, try to schedule multiple times to speak to the different groups of students, even if it is on the same day. An audience of freshmen has different questions than juniors, and the timelines for accession into the Corps are different for each class. New students will probably want to hear a different story than potential recruits who are upperclassmen. Further, unless they have had contact with the JAG Corps in the past, many may not know that the military uses legal professionals. While the discussion of a JA’s role is a good starting point for a young cadet, this topic may be of less interest to a junior or senior preparing to graduate who would be more interested in learning about the opportunities available to them in the Corps.

Where and How?

The location that you choose is integral to the cadets’ participation. The ultimate goal, of course, is for the cadets to be engaged. This may not be as easy as traveling to one of the local colleges. Some ROTC programs cover multiple colleges and universities in a broad area, sometimes a few hours apart. There may be an opportunity to connect with multiple schools at a consolidated event on one of the campuses. Consider joining the cadets during a competition they attend, during a physical training session, a ruck march, or in locations that are not the classroom. Alternatively, instead of traveling to the college, consider bringing some cadets to your installation and hosting them at the office. If a smaller-scale event would be easier to manage, invite them to an event in your office to meet with your team members or invite them to view a court-martial.16

How you engage the cadets begins with knowing your audience, knowing yourself, and—most importantly—being yourself. It is critical to know about the battalion before walking into the room. At a minimum, you should know the name of the battalion, the Professor of Military Science, and have viewed the biographies for the ROTC leadership. If the battalion is comprised of cadets from multiple universities, it may be useful to spend some time speaking with the leadership about the relationships with other service elements in the area. For example, with which ARNG units do the cadets have dual membership in the Simultaneous Membership Program?17 Does the battalion have a relationship with any reserve units or other service programs in the area, and what do those units do for the command? In addition to a conversation with the leadership, an easy way to familiarize yourself with the battalion is by reviewing its social media pages. The content will give you a quick snapshot of the battalion and an overview of the cadet life during the year. Finally, consider picking up the phone and speaking with the ROTC leadership—including the Professor of Military Science—and discussing major training events, the curriculum, and upcoming competitions. By tailoring your speech to relevant topics and getting to know the battalion before walking in the door, you illustrate that you care about and are interested in them.

Communicate with the Professor of Military Science, or other unit coordinator, and have honest conversations about your mutual expectations, how much time and interaction they want you to allocate, and if your topic areas will be of interest to the cadets. Ask the leadership if your brief will or could satisfy one of the battalion training requirements. For example, will it fulfill a requirement for a block of instruction on leadership or the UCMJ? If you can speak on these topics to fill a block of required instruction and tie in the JAG Corps elements, it will benefit both the cadets and the battalion leadership.

While speaking to different classes on topics other than those in the block of instruction, it is essential to know your material. You should already be a subject matter expert on the topic of instruction, but you should also be a subject matter expert on the application process and program details for Ed Delay and FLEP. The Judge Advocate Recruiting Office makes being a subject matter expert easier by distributing briefing material to all SJAs during the recruiting season. The slide deck and information papers contain all of the information regarding the Ed Delay program and FLEP. Each class will have different questions about accessions, so you should know the relevant dates for each path. Review the JARO website so that you can be knowlegeable about the various tabs and the information on the webpages. The more familiar you are with the material, the easier it will be to answer any potential questions from your audience. Of course, you should always also encourage cadets to contact JARO if they have questions beyond your scope of expertise.

Similar to preparing for trial, know yourself and anticipate where you may have knowledge gaps. Anticipate questions and prepare, or at least think about, potential responses to those questions. If there are no questions at the beginning of your talk or at the end of the initial discussion, open the floor to any topics and ask questions to open the flow of dialogue. For example, what are they looking for in a military career? Cadets’ questions will give you a better idea of the topics that are important to them and will give you an azimuth. If they do not have any questions, or if they are mentioned and answered earlier, talk about what “Be Ready” means to the Corps or discuss our Corps constants: “principled counsel, substantive mastery of the law, stewardship, and servant leadership.”18 Other areas you may want to anticipate or touch on in order to pique participants’ interest are the emerging practice areas such as cyber and artificial intelligence. Cadets may have never considered being able to serve in these dynamic areas.

Practical Tips and Follow-Up

Visits

In-person visits can usually be accomplished with little or no costs through the use of government non-tactical vehicles. Alternatively, subject to ethical parameters, you can engage ROTC cadets in combination with a staff or senior-leader visit to the subordinate units in the area. In short, be imaginative—within legal guidelines—and be fiscally responsible. If you or your team members are unable to speak to the cadets in person due to transportation, time, or expense, consider alternative methods of engagement—such as video conferencing platforms. Whether you appear in person or virtually, communicate with the battalion leadership on every aspect of logistics and the topics of conversation.

Determine if you will be participating in physical training or another activity with the cadets, simply briefing them in a classroom, or both. If time permits, advocate for performing an activity with them. No briefing can replicate the breakdown of barriers that comes from sharing the sports field or working together as a team. This information will also inform your decisions what will be the appropriate attire for the visit.19 Do not underestimate the message that your uniform and appearance may send; it could serve as a conversation piece.

Find out if you are speaking for one session of cadets of various class years or for one session for each class year. Large, mixed groups are less beneficial than a meeting with each individual year group, and these meetings will depend on their classes and availability. Ensure that you and the battalion leadership have a mutual understanding regarding how much time you will use to speak. Try to plan for a minimum of one hour for the speaking engagement; but, be aware that some classes only last fifty minutes while some classes are ninety minutes. No matter how much time you have allocated, be sure to leave approximately a quarter of your time for questions and discussions.20

Follow-Up

After speaking to the cadets, a critical element is the follow-up. Real relationships are what keep you in the Corps, and it is no different with cadets. The implementation guidance does not require more than one visit, but every OSJA is welcome to maximize engagements and go “above and beyond.” In doing so, both the OSJA and the ROTC battalion leadership should endeavor to forge a genuine relationship—not a superficial one. Offer ongoing support and maximize other types of touchpoints, such as virtual engagements or individual telephonic mentoring sessions. Small group sessions over a period of time are more effective than one-time briefings to a mass audience. Real-world mission requirements and budget constraints will always compete for your time; however, the more the ROTC battalion leadership and the cadets know you or the representative in your office, the more likely they will come to that person when they have questions regarding the Corps.

If you are not able to maintain that relationship on a persistent basis, consider relying on the USAR and ARNG elements in the area. Another resource may be a JAG alumnus or alumna who teaches at the university or at the law school. Battalions will welcome your continued support. Provide them with your contact information and confirm they have yours. After the first event, go to their battalion events in the future when invited. If you have the opportunity, make a point to attend battalion dining in and dining out functions, commissioning ceremonies, and fun physical training events. Continued engagements will also help the battalion and provide continuity when they transition leadership.

After each speaking engagement or event, follow up with JARO.21 At a minimum, provide information and highlights on the ROTC battalion from the engagement. Further, provide some information on the group which can potentially be posted to social media. Keep it simple—write up a short blurb for JARO and the battalion on the engagement. A note posted to the appropriate platform is not self-aggrandizing—it is telling the story for both sides. The fastest way to “tell the story” is via social media. When you “tell the story,” make it an exciting story. Instead of a long dissertation combined with a photo of a classroom, provide a short write-up and have an interesting picture. The photo serves the dual purpose of highlighting both the Corps and the battalion. If you feel camera-shy, focus solely on the battalion.22 Most, if not all, battalions will appreciate being mentioned in a forum with Army leadership, especially if linked to their unit via hashtags or through their social media account presence. Highlighting their battalion in a national forum boosts traffic to their sites and provides them with great publicity.

Conclusion

As leaders in the Corps, we must be deliberate in planning. After all, filling the formation after we leave is a part of our responsibility to steward our profession.23 The ROTC Outreach Program is a component of our recruitment strategy. An immediate pool of potential JAG Corps leaders are already in the ROTC battalions in your area. Judge advocates from every component should engage cadets and educate them on the various pathways to join and serve in our Corps. From the beginning of the school term and throughout the academic year, and using every medium and platform available, engage these cadets as often as your mission allows. To do so, be prepared to travel to them. Intrigue them with specific information regarding your background and history, but also with information that educates cadets about the JAG Corps’s mission and emphasizes the opportunity to become a JA through various commissioning sources. By doing so, you will ensure our Corps remains strong and attracts the best candidates for the future. TAL

 


COL Stephens is currently assigned as the G/3/5/7 with the U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command.



Notes

1. United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) Public Affairs, Army Senior Leaders: Recruiting is the ‘Lifeblood’ of the Army, U.S. Army (29 Oct. 2019), https://www.army.mil/article/229070/army_senior_leaders_recruiting_is_the_lifeblood_of_the_army. This article features comments by Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Chief of Staff of the Army. The comments were originally made on 3 October 2019, at the U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s Annual Leaders Training Conference. Id.

2. The Educational (Ed) Delay program allows senior year cadets (MSIVs) to apply for a delay of their service obligation in order to attend law school. Cadets are granted an Ed Delay commission upon graduation and placed in the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) during law school. They must compete for the Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps selection during their third-year of law school. See U.S. Dep’t of Army, Reg. 601-25, Delay in Reporting for and Exemption from Active Duty, Initial Active Duty for Training, and Reserve Forces Duty para. 2-5 (19 Oct. 2006). The Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Outreach Program also raises awareness of future opportunities in the Funded Legal Education Program (FLEP), under which, up to twenty-five active duty officers in the grade of O-3 and below—and, starting this year, certain enlisted Soldiers—obtain a civilian legal education at the Army’s expense. See Detail as Students at Law Schools, Commissioned Officers, and Certain Enlisted Members, 10 U.S.C. § 2004 (2011).

3. TJAG & DJAG Sends vol. 40-15, Decisions on Strategic Initiatives Resulting from September 2019 Board of Directors Meetings, JAGCNet (6 Nov. 2019), https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/JAGC.nsf/homeDisplay.xsp?open&documentId=C86EE9109F670795852584AA003EFE88 [hereinafter TJAG & DJAG Sends vol. 40-15].

4. Author’s note: These practical tips were developed from personal experience with multiple ROTC Battalions throughout the country over the course of several years. Every engagement has resulted in lessons learned, including lessons that the author wishes he knew prior to the engagement.

5. Telephone interview with Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Aaron Lykling, Chief, Judge Advocate Recruiting Office (Apr. 9, 2020). Many thanks to LTC Lykling for all his contributions to this article.

6. TJAG & DJAG Sends vol. 40-09, AC/RC Integration Next: Total Force Readiness, Annex B, AC Centric Partner Directory, JAGCNet (7 May 2019), https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/jagc.nsf/homeDisplay.xsp?open&documentId=0F78C9466468FE91852583F3005FDF54 [hereinafter AC/RC Integration]. If you need assistance with knowing who your partners are in the Reserve or National Guard, refer on the website to AC/RC Integration, which lists all of the AC/RC/NGB partners.

7. U.S. Army Reserve Legal Command, Vision, U.S. Army Reserve, https://www.usar.army.mil/Commands/Functional/Legal-Command/About-Us/ (last visited Apr. 15, 2019).

8. Engage with Judge Advocate Recruiting Office (JARO) in advance of any engagement to obtain multiple copies, which can be distributed to the cadets. The Judge Advocate Recruting Office can mail the brochures to your office or to the ROTC Battalion in advance of your appearance. Further, JARO can send additional copies to the battalion throughout the year for potential distribution to future cadets.

9. Another useful topic may include explaining the role we play on a brigade or division staff during the operations process. Cadets may not realize that JAG Corps personnel deploy and enable operational commanders and staff to make legally sound and ethical decisions in a kinetic environment.

10. JARO, Serve Your Country and Your State in the Army National Guard, JAGCnet (13 Mar. 2013), https://www.jagcnet.army.mil/Sites/jaro.nsf/homeContent.xsp?open&documentId=E2695AA961DCFBDF85257B2D00513222.

11. U.S. Army JAG Corps, LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/company/u-s-army-jag-corps (last visited Apr. 15, 2020); Army JARO, Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/ArmyJARO/ (last visited Apr. 15, 2020). In addition, JARO is always standing by to provide the most current information on Ed Delay, FLEP, and USAR recruiting. They will help with talking points when conducting ROTC engagements or branch nights.

12. TJAG Sends vol. 40-04, Jan 18—New Year, Same Resolution—Be Ready!, JAGCNet (8 Jan. 2018), https://www.jagcnet2.army.mil/Sites/JAGC.nsf/homeDisplay.xsp?open&documentId=0480354BA3ADF9388525820F0057CFDB.

13. TJAG & DJAG Special Announcement vol. 40-08, Decisions on Strategic Initiatives (April 2019) (on file with author); see TJAG & DJAG Sends vol. 40-15, supra note 3.

14. Battlefield Next, TJAGLCS, https://tjaglcspublic.army.mil/battlefield-next (last visited Apr. 15, 2020).

15. Interested cadets will apply for an Ed Delay in the fall of their MSIV year. These cadets will need to prepare for and take their Law School Admission Test (LSAT) prior to the selection board. Because cadets will have cadet summer training obligations, it is recommended that they take their LSAT no later than the spring semester of their MSIII year.

16. One of the most effective meetings we were able to arrange at the Presidio of Monterey was to invite a small group of potential candidates from two different locations to the State of the Corps during an Article 6 visit. The attendees were thrilled to be invited to the installation and to meet the leadership of the Corps, including The Judge Advocate General.

17. You can find more information regarding the Simultaneous Member Program by visiting the Army National Guard’s website. See Simultaneous Membership Program (SMP), Army National Guard, https://www.nationalguard.com/simultaneous-membership-program (last visited Apr. 15, 2020).

18. TJAG & DJAG Sends vol. 40-16, Principled Counsel—Our Mandate as Dual Professionals (9 Jan. 2020) (on file with author).

19. Always look sharp and be in the proper uniform when you speak to the cadets. Consider the pros and cons with wearing the Army Combat Uniform (ACU) versus the Army Service Uniform (ASU) for each visit with the cadets. There is some value to visiting with cadets in your regular ACU duty uniform, as it reinforces all members of the Corps are Soldiers first and may help with relatability and approachability. Conversely, if you elect to wear your ASUs in the small group discussions or in the first visit with the ROTC battalion, having the proper uniform with all of the accoutrements will allow you to “sell yourself” and the Corps, as it presents a visual depiction of the experiences available in the Corps. If you are participating in a panel or forum discussion, wear your ASUs and make sure the accoutrements are fixed in accordance with the regulations. Cadets will notice when it is wrong, and the audience may focus on the uniform more than the message if there is something out of regulation. Similarly, if it is correctly put together, older or prior-service cadets may know the medals, and this may generate questions for discussions. For the physical training (PT) session, think about what you will need before you get there and ask! For example, some units perform PT in civilian clothes and others use the PT uniform exclusively. If you will be appearing in the PT uniform, ask if they use the PT belt; and, if so, see if you can find out the color—it makes a nice touch of uniformity.

20. Each side should communicate some basic information such as: Where will you park? How far is the parking area away from the speaking location? Do you need to allow for extra time to travel from the parking area to the ROTC Battalion headquarters, and how much time should you allocate? Does the university only allow parking in a limited area? For example, in one visit, I did not realize that I needed to bring quarters for the parking meters because I was used to other meters accepting cards as a method of payment. In what forum will you be speaking—a classroom or an open area? If it is in a classroom, do they/you need/want a canned PowerPoint presentation? Do you want to use an overhead projector? Do you need to bring one, or are you just speaking to the students via notecards? If you elect to use PowerPoint, is it of the caliber you need/want? Do you need to bring your laptop or use theirs? If you are showing video, do you need to ensure the video is embedded in the presentation or should you use a hyperlink?

21. The Judge Advocate Recruiting Office makes it easy to send them the relevant information as they have built a model one-page slide deck (ROTC Outreach Assessment) that you can tailor for your purposes with details on the engagement. Send the completed write-up to: usarmy.pentagon.hqda-otjag.mbx.jaro@mail.mil. Consider also sending a note to the leadership so they can post something on the JARO or JAG Corps social media platforms. When sending it to the leadership, send the information to the Strategic Initiatives Office at the following address: hqda-otjag.mbx.jagcorps-info@mail.mil.

22. Ensure that you have the cadets’ permission before taking their photos and sending them to JARO for posting.

23. Lieutenant General Charles Pede, Providing Premier Counsel During #COVID19, Facebook (Apr. 3, 2020, 7:16 PM), https://www.facebook.com/ArmyJAGCorps/videos/511758999508885/.