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Norfolk, San Diego focus groups show few fans of 'global force' slogan

Sep. 4, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
Officers expressed some support for the Navy's recruiting slogan; other participants in recent focus groups weren't as kind.
Officers expressed some support for the Navy's recruiting slogan; other participants in recent focus groups weren't as kind. (Navy)
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The recruiting slogan “America’s Navy: A global force for good,” doesn’t resonate with sailors and veterans. And while officers find it less objectionable, they don’t love it, either.

These revelations, gleaned from a series of Gallup-held focus groups in Norfolk, Va., and San Diego, probably aren’t surprising anybody.

Although the slogan is touted for its success in drawing in recruits, it has long had critics who say it lacks war-fighter spirit.

With focus group responses in hand, Navy leaders seem poised to at least consider some change.

Seventeen active-duty and two veteran focus groups took place in June with about 165 total participants. The $40,000 study was paid for through an existing contract Gallup has with the chief of information’s office.

Gallup was actually hired to collect feedback on Navy fleet weeks, but after those were cut because of sequestration, CHINFO didn’t want to waste the already signed contract.

The focus groups, which included a mix of ranks from sea and shore jobs, sought to get a better idea of how service members feel about service in general. But “global force” opinions were a key part of the hourlong sessions.

'It doesn't do anything for me'

Sailors feel “global force” fails to embody their “day-to-day work,” Gallup concluded, quoting one senior enlisted based in San Diego: “It doesn’t do anything for me. It does nothing. ... If you ask a group of sailors, they wouldn’t even know what it meant.”

While not enthusiastic, officers at least acknowledged “global force” tries to deliver a message. “We’re not just out there to put warheads on poor heads,” a San Diego captain said. “We certainly can ... but the humanitarian assistance is shaping all that.”

The Navy doesn’t have an official motto, and officials stress “global force” is not trying to fill that bill.

“It is a recruiting slogan, and our ad agency will tell you, and they’ve shown me the metrics, that it resonates with the 17- to 24-year-old potential recruits, their parents and influencers,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy’s chief of information. “It does resonate with this millennial generation, who are altruistic. They want to serve a greater public good.”

But as the Navy seeks ways to retain its best sailors, Kirby said “it behooves us to take a look at how we talk about ourselves and we think about ourselves and think about service in the Navy.”

Kirby’s office called for the focus groups, but recruiting falls under the chief of naval personnel, so the report has been forwarded to the office of Vice Adm. Bill Moran, the new CNP, for his consideration.

Moran is not opposed to “global force” for recruitment but hopes the Navy can find a bigger message that resonates not only with incoming sailors, but also those who have spent years in the fleet, CNP spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Chris Servello said.

“A central effort that unifies our recruiting, retention and community outreach campaigns is clearly the most efficient and effective way to proceed in today’s fiscal and operational environment,” Servello said.

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