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Gopher Battalion partners with local Reserve and recruiting units

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by Capt. John Zillhardt
University of Minnesota

MINNEAPOLIS – Towering above the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus, an 18- by 42-foot billboard with an impressive image depicting combined Army air and Soldier power. It announces that Army Strong officers are in demand.

This month-long advertisement is the latest achievement born of a cooperative effort between the UMN Army ROTC program, the U.S. Army Reserve and the local U.S. Army Recruiting Command Recruiting Battalion.

In recent years the UMN’s Gopher Battalion has enjoyed tremendous growth and success. In 2004, the battalion had 67 enrolled cadets; in May 2008 there were 119, and now there are 133. It’s important to note that the battalion did not sacrifice quality for quantity. During this same period the program received numerous awards, including the 2008 Order of the Founder and Patriots Award and the 2008 MacArthur Unit Award as one of the top eight ROTC battalions in U.S. Army Cadet Command.

A key factor in the unit’s success has been its focus on growth and quality, said Maj.  Gary Mundfrom, the battalion’s enrollment and scholarship officer. To that end, recruitment of cadets with prior active-duty or reserve-component military experience has paid off, he added.

“Reserve component Soldiers are great candidates for ROTC for several reasons: first, they’ve already decided they want to serve in the military – they want to serve a cause greater than themselves; second, they are goal -riented and are either in college or are planning to attend; and finally they already meet most, if not all, of the eligibility requirements for ROTC.”

Of the 119 cadets enrolled in the UMN AROTC in May 2008 approximately 30 percent of them were also members of the Minnesota Army National Guard. Only two cadets, less than 2 percent, were members of locally-based USAR units.

After analyzing these statistics, Mundfrom said he realized there was a definite opportunity to recruit more quality cadets from the local USAR market.

“Working more closely with the Reserve to increase their number of (Simultaneous Membership Program) Cadets seemed like the classic win-win scenario. The USAR had a shortage of lieutenants and our ROTC program was looking for ways to grow. Our experience with the local Army National Guard has been incredibly productive – not only for us, but for them. Based on that experience, we believed we could increase the number of guard and Reserve cadets in our ROTC program.”
In late Summer and Fall of 2008, the battalion initiated its new USAR recruiting campaign. Master Sgt. Tim Hovseth, the unit’s enrollment and scholarship NCO, a 13-year veteran of the USAR, was the “point man” for the new campaign.

“Our USAR recruiting strategy focuses on engaging and working with three key groups: USAR leadership, USAREC recruiters and Soldiers at local USAR units,” Hovseth explained. “Our primary message to the USAR leaders is that ROTC is a great commissioning tool that benefits both the unit and the Soldier. By working with and educating USAREC recruiters on the benefits of ROTC we intend to increase in the number of leads coming from them. Last but not least, by getting out to the USAR units during their Battle Assemblies we can meet directly with soldiers that want to join our ROTC program.”

In the Fall of 2008, Lt. Col. Michael Conway, the professor of military science at the University of Minnesota met with his counterpart at the Minneapolis Recruiting Battalion, the commander, Lt. Col. Brad Dostal. The purpose of this meeting was to expand relations and identify additional ways of working together to increase the number of USAR Cadets. That meeting continues to pay dividends for both organizations today. In addition to the officer recruiting billboard initiative, Dostal’s recruiting battalion sponsored the U of M ROTC’s recent new cadet orientation by providing food, entertainment, and an opportunity to discuss career options in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Recruiting Battalion also agreed to field a program called the “On-Campus Recruiter.” The program is designed to increase Army Reserve officer commissions through ROTC, support the Army Reserve Simultaneous Membership Program, and increase ROTC enrollment and contracts. The OCR program is comprised of one recruiter from the Minneapolis Recruiting Battalion working side-by-side with the University of Minnesota ROTC staff to increase officer accessions into the Army Reserves. The OCR is able to provide specific information and guidance to prospects and enrolled Cadets, and be an active participant in recruiting and training events with the Cadets and local college students.

Thanks to these initiatives and other efforts, the University of Minnesota Gopher Battalion enrollment and the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion Minneapolis mission accomplishment continues to grow. As of today, there are 133 enrolled cadets in the program, an increase of 11 percent from one year ago. A key component to this growth has been an increase in cadets from the guard and Reserve. The number of guard Cadets increased 15 percent from one year ago to 42, while the number of Reserve Cadets has tripled from two to six and is on track for continued growth.

Hovseth is confident that the number of USAR Cadets in the program will continue to increase.
“It was slow going at first,” he said. “We visited a lot of units and recruiting stations before we started getting leads for ROTC. The hard work is starting to pay off – we’re getting quality leads and we’ve tripled the number of cadets just within the first year of our renewed emphasis with the USAR.”

Conway said his ROTC program is better off because of a solid balance of high school progression Cadets and those with prior military service involved there.

“They help to expand and balance the attitudes and perspectives of each other. I want to transform Scholar-Athlete-Leaders into adaptable, well-balanced warrior leaders. Mixing prior service cadets with progression cadets achieves this objective.

“We’ve had good success with the local guard, and the Reserve seemed like a logical next step for us. Before we started this initiative, the local Reserve commissioned virtually all of their officers via OCS or the Direct Commissioning Program. We believe that’s starting to change,” Conway said. “We’ve learned that with persistence and hard work it’s possible for both of us – ROTC and the USAR – to grow together.”

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Written by CadetCommandPAO

May 5, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Posted in News

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One Response

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  1. Awesome

    chels8838

    January 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm


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