HR Administration

U.S. Navy Optimas Award Winner for Service

By Janet Wiscombe

Dec. 3, 2010

Mothers can be a military recruiter’s worst nightmare. They tend to be leery of those who make promises to their children about life-changing decisions and to be mistrustful of recruiting brochures and websites.

For U.S. Navy recruiters, the nightmare is also about making numbers. The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training and Education is charged with signing up 3,750 new recruits every month. To meet that target when less than 12 percent of young people are inclined to enlist, the lowest percentage since 1976, the human resources professionals in the Navy had to get creative.

Military recruiters realize that parents—particularly moms—play a major role in influencing their sons’ and daughters’ choices. So they set out to develop a more direct and intimate way to communicate with families. The result is a highly successful social website, As part of the initiative, the Navy’s HR department recruited 16 “Ambassador Moms” to spend a few hours a week on the website answering questions for mothers and loved ones of people currently enlisted in or considering the Navy.


Since March 2008 when it was established, the website has attracted a network of 36,000 mothers who talk about subjects ranging from fear and loss to birthday gifts.

“I am overwhelmed by how much this website has meant to me,” writes one Navy mom. “It carried me through boot camp … and most importantly, stood in my shoes when my son was seriously hurt last March in Florida. I went on the site and put out an SOS for moms to be with him until I could get there from Connecticut. The response was unbelievable. I am forever grateful to the moms and dads who rushed to his side.”

The mom adds, “This forum is what has been needed for so long. We’ve had our group on Yahoo for about 19 years, but this is the type of thing that was needed most.” For creating an outreach program that will help the recruitment efforts of the entire organization, the U.S. Navy is the winner of the 2010 Optimas Award in the Service category.

Workforce Management, December 2010, p. 28Subscribe Now!

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