Hey Marines,“ev’ry clime and place” is belted out in the “The Marines’ Hymn" — so keeping recruiting stations open in the middle of a viral pandemic shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone.
While the Associated Press reported that the Army has shuttered its recruiting stations and moved to virtual recruiting, the Corps is still keeping its doors open to future recruits — even in states with stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders as COVID-19 continues to rapidly spread across the U.S.
Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement, that none of the Corps’ recruiting stations have completely shuttered.
But Kronenberg said Marine recruiters are taking extra precautions to safeguard service members and the public from COVID-19 to include screening applicants scheduled to ship to boot camp who have “heightened risk factors” for exposure to the virus, while also screening for basic COVID-19 symptoms.
“The Marine Corps Recruiting Command remains steadfast in its mission to find quality men and women to serve as Marines, and during this national emergency, directed specific steps be taken by recruiting personnel as they interact with prospective applicants,” Kronenberg said in an emailed statement.
But a Marine recruiter from Michigan, who spoke to Marine Corps Times on condition of anonymity, says the Corps is not doing enough to safeguard service members and family. He said the Marines are creating unnecessary risk by keeping the doors open to recruiting stations with stay-at-home orders from the governor’s office.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order Monday ordering the state’s residents to stay at home as COVID-19 continues to rampage in the state. The order directed all Michigan businesses to “suspend in-person operations that are not necessary to sustain or protect life," according to a news release.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Michigan has 1,035 COVID-19 cases and is experiencing community transmission or spread of the virus.
The Marine recruiter said the Corps has put forth a “half ass attempt” to stem the spread of the virus.
“We have been instructed to blatantly disobey the governors order for non-essential personnel to stop going to work and encouraged to continue to prospect for new people, both in person and over the phone,” the recruiter said. “The lack of care for our safety and our family members is heard loud and clear.”
But much of the authority has been placed in the hands of commanders to make important safety decisions to help stem the tide of COVID-19.
“Since this disease and the public’s response is affecting different areas of the country in different ways, commanders have been given broad authority to implement any additional local controls they deem necessary to protect their Marines, poolees, families and communities,” Kronenberg explained.
He declined comment on allegations by the Marine recruiter.
The shelter-in-place and stay-at-home orders across the country are also adding additional hurdles to recruiting efforts and limiting access to potential recruits. Kronenberg said recruiters in certain areas may need to leverage digital communications more than others, but that it was just one of other methods to engage with the target audience.
“That has a dramatic effect on our ability to prospect and limits our opportunities for the important in-person conversations that an applicant needs to have with a recruiter while considering decisions about his or her future,” Kronenberg said.
“Many high schools and colleges are closed, which further limits our ability to maintain relationships with the students and influencers so important to recruiting operations,” he said.
Marines across the country have expressed concern their commands are not taking COVID-19 seriously — jeopardizing service members and the citizens they are sworn to protect.
The Corps has thundered on with training exercises and kept open barbershops as other service branches have implemented stricter guidelines to stem the spread of the virus.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.