CHICOPEE, Mass., -- It started with a set of steak knives – A friendly jeering gesture from one commanding officer to another.
On October 2012, the start of the Marines Fiscal Year 2013, Marine Recruiting Station Harrisburg had won Marine Recruiting Station of the Year FY 12 for the district, 1st Marine Corps District. Maj. Andrew Schoenmaker, the station's commanding officer, sent a gift to Maj. Scott Welch, the commanding officer of Marine Recruiting Station Springfield.
The gift was a gag, a reference to a popular movie about sales where 1st place receives a Cadillac, 2nd place receives a set of steak knives, and 3rd place is you are fired. The gag resonated with the command in a profound way and set a course of change in motion that would prove historic for RS Springfield.
“The set of steak knives meant they won and we didn't,” said Master Sgt. Stephan Forget, the recruiter instructor for RS Springfield. “I asked the Marines 'Is this what you are? Are you second place Marines?' I didn't believe they were I believed they were winners.
“We had all the training and knowledge to be number one, we just needed to make it happen,” he added.
The Marines faced issues with motivation and efficiency. Morale was low and the Marines often worked late hours, according to Forget.
They needed a change and to be challenged.
“When they saw the challenge on the table, they saw the chance to grab history,” Welch said. “For the first time in the 1st MCD history, an RS closed out on the first day of the month.”
The Marine staff noncommissioned officers retrained and refocused their Marines on the basics and the Volumes, books containing a set of rules Marines use to govern the principles of recruiting.
“They had to rehash everything they had learned at recruiting school, everything they had been taught and put that on the street,” said Capt. Thomas Abbott, the executive officer for RS Springfield.
November marked the turning point for the station. In 19 processing days the Marines recruited 144 people, allowing them to meet their required contract quota for the month of November and the month of December.
“They put all the effort they possibly could to where we could contract two missions in one month,” Abbott said. “It took a combined effort from the Marines on the street and the command group … everybody had to work together as a team, or we wouldn't have succeeded.”
The Marines momentum saw no end. They continued to meet their recruiting quotas on the first working day of every month for the remainder of the year – An accomplishment unmatched by any other RS within 1st MCD for FY 13.
“From there it just took off and everything got better,” Forget said. “If you're excited about doing your job, then you will do your job well.”
The increase in efficiency also allowed them to improve on various other aspects of their missions. The Marines spent more time developing relationships with their various communities as well as training their poolees, people waiting to go to boot camp where they will become recruits.
“Our MCRD (Marine Corps Recruit Depot) attrition was fantastic, our contracting was bar none, the best it’s been in sometime,” Forget said. “All the little things we needed to do as an RS we did well.”
Their efforts led to a drastic rise in morale throughout the command. The Marines were able to spend holidays with their families. They also were able to secure RS of the month for four months in the year, and RS of the quarter for 2nd and 3rd Quarter.
“Then all the awards and accolades came and they loved it,” Forget said. “Marines want to win.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s recruiting, or a war in Afghanistan, they want to win,” he added.
The Marines now have refocused their efforts in sustaining their accomplishments and look to fine-tune various aspects of their mission.
“I expect nothing but better things,” Welch said. “The key is to not look back and always try and make progress and get better at what we do.”
Now, the feelings irked from a gifted set of cutlery have vanished in the wake of RS Springfield’s awe inspiring zeal in continuing to achieve unequaled triumph within their district.
“Once we got to the point where we knew we were the best; the steak knives became irrelevant,” Abbott said. “Now they are just more than a myth than anything else.”