Phoenix Recruiting Battalion
August 02, 2017
PHOENIX - As a recruiter, Master Sgt. Redus Thomas reached the pinnacle of his profession, becoming a three-time brigade recruiter of the year during his eight years enlisting Soldiers for the U.S. Army.
For Thomas, who now serves as the operations noncommissioned officer for Phoenix Recruiting Battalion, recruiting became a way of life. He aimed to be the very best at his craft, something he achieved by sheer hard work in duty locations within Illinois, Indianapolis and Pennsylvania.
It wasn't an easy road, however, with Thomas overcoming traumatic circumstances prior to becoming a recruiter, which would provide him further incentive to succeed.
As a senior NCO with 18 years of service in the Army Reserve and the active guard reserve program, Thomas was formerly an engineer with reserve units in Iowa and Ohio, deploying three times to Iraq and suffering through several attacks from insurgents.
In October 2005, he was seriously wounded when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device.
Thomas returned home to recover from his injuries after the explosion and decided he needed a change, applying for the AGR program, which he was accepted for in June 2006, becoming a recruiter shortly afterwards.
Initially Thomas recruited in Indianapolis, in admittedly poorer neighborhoods, something which suited him, having grown up in similar areas.
"I could relate what those guys were going through. They were in a bad situation and needed a way out," he explained. "I told them the Army could help. I was very successful out there because I'd been in their shoes. Living in low-income housing, no money and living on food stamps and welfare as a kid."
Thomas said he was able to connect with people through his similar experiences, giving them hope.
"I told them 'hey I know where you've been ... I've been there,'" he continued. "Recruiting isn't about convincing people, it's believing in what you're doing and showing people what the Army can offer them. That way they're more willing to listen to you and take that step into joining."
After impressing as a recruiter in Indianapolis, Thomas followed this with center leader roles in Chicago and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, taking both previously low-ranking centers to the top five in U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
"I would go out with the recruiters on the job instead of being stuck in the office," Thomas said. "That way I was mentoring and training them, so they could achieve the success I had. That meant not being afraid to be told no 100 times a day. The Army isn't for everybody. But showing them it's okay to be turned down, yet still ask if they have a friend or a referral, a lot of recruiters don't do that."
His desire to be the best, he said, led Thomas to be named USAREC's 3rd Brigade recruiter of the year from 2010-12 and also center leader of the year. He also narrowly missed out on becoming USAREC recruiter of the year in this time frame, earning the runner-up slot.
Proper time management was key in achieving this success, Thomas said, with every recruiter needing to know how to balance work and family lives.
"Everything you do, no matter if you're at work or at home spending time with your family, you're always going to be on duty," he said. "If I'm at dinner, I'll leave my business card for the waitress. If I see someone who looks like they could need the Army or maybe we can do something for them, I'll leave my card and ask them 'hey, have you ever thought about joining?'"
This method paid off for Thomas often.
"If you don't ask, you don't know," Thomas said. "People don't ask the question. Lots of kids now see the Army on TV and think all we do is run around kicking in doors and blowing stuff up. That's not the case. I was an engineer before recruiting, and I can tell people I've helped build bridges, houses, hospitals, schools ... when they see that, they're amazed."
Thomas has been out of active recruiting since joining the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion in 2014, but still remains a mentor for the AGR recruiters in the battalion.
"The AGR's here look up to me because I'm the senior AGR in the battalion," he said. "It's my job to go out and train, mentor and show them how they can get to where I am."