Recruiting for the Reserve It now begins with a text
MVNU students were surprised, puzzled and even angry to receive a text message last month from a U.S. Army Reserve recruiter.
Sophomore Elise Murray thought it was a spam text, and senior Kristie Hammond was confused to see the message on her phone.
“How did they get my number,” Hammond said. “Why did they reach out to me?”
The text messages were sent by Staff Sergeant Jacob Potter, a recruiter of the U.S. Army Reserve.
The messages are not a new means of outreach for recruiters. Potter said he has been using text messages for the past several years to connect with students.
“From college to high school, students are more adept to sending texts than answering a call,” Potter said.
Students are less likely to answer an unknown number than to respond to a text, he said.
Potter spent a few hours sending out the messages one day last month. Potter said he received a range of responses.
“The majority don’t reply,” Potter said. “Others reply with interest and some were rude. You don’t have to be rude.”
Potter explained how and why the Army Reserve obtained students’ information.
“Every year, colleges and universities are required to release student contact information,” Potter said.
This requirement is due to the Solomon Amendment, which gives military recruiters the same access to students 17 and older that other recruiters have.
An institution is denied access to federal grants if it does not comply with the amendment’s requirements.
As a result, contact information for all students receiving federal aid gets released to any U.S. military recruiters who ask for it, Potter said. Information given to the recruiting offices can range from names and phone numbers to majors and academic levels.
University Registrar Mel Severns said he has no power to deny the information. All students 17 years or older are on the directory of information that gets released, he said.
Out of the 1,377 traditional undergraduate students enrolled this semester, 1,176 were on the list released to the Army Reserve.
“Personally, do I like giving the information? Not really,” Severns said.
Students have the option to opt out of the directory, Potter said. The university’s registrar’s office is required by law to remove any student who wants taken off the list.
However, students who opt out of the military listing opt out of everything, Severns said.
The registrar’s office cannot allow information to go anywhere else if the military doesn’t receive the same access to the information, he explained.
“We cannot differentiate from services because we don’t want them bugging our students,” Severns said.
Severns said restricting the release of contact information can harm students by not allowing them to be contacted for possible jobs or internships.
Although all branches of the military can request information, most do not, Severns said.
He typically receives one or two military requests for information a year.
The university does not have to give directory information unless a recruiter directly asks for it. There have been years when no information has been given out.
Severns said registrars are very protective of student information.
“We work to protect your data, so we don’t like to hand it out,” Severns said.
Severns said this was the first instance of text messages he has heard of.
Potter said he wants students to look at the Reserves as a legitimate way to gain practical work experience and help earn money to pay for college.
The Army Reserves offers training in more than 120 different career fields. Jobs range from cooks and plumbers to engineers and human resource managers.
“Many people believe the college incentives are the biggest reason to enlist in the U.S. Army Reserve, but my belief is that the networking piece and the ability to meet prominent members of the community far outweigh any type of incentive,” Potter said.
“Who you know is very important, and the Army Reserve puts you side by side with those individuals.”
Basic training lasts for 10 weeks, with career training afterward. The Reserve is a part-time, one-weekend-a-month commitment for at least two years.
Students can be called up to active service, but they typically get called upon only during times of war. They usually do not get pulled out during the middle of a semester and they generally get notified six to 12 months before deployment, Potter said.
Students are paid during their training and monthly drills, and they also are eligible for tuition assistance and student loan repayment.
Staff Sgt. Jacob Potter can be contacted by phone, (614) 352-5271, or email, firstname.lastname@example.org.