FORT SNELLING, Minn. (Oct. 15, 2021) – From the relatively small, but familiar city of Prior Lake, Minnesota, came a young man who would travel the world; living in Japan, Florida, Guam, San Diego, and Washington state, before returning to his home state to recruit future prospects to do the same.
Navy Retail Specialist 1st Class Andrew Larson is that person. Larson, assigned to Navy Talent Acquisition Group (NTAG) Northern Plains, comes to the Bloomington Navy recruiting station with sea stories abound and a genuine excitement rarely seen today. His techniques are natural, his spirit is contagious, and his love of his country, his Navy, and all of humankind is glaringly apparent.
“I love talking to people. I know what a recruiter did for me back in 2007, he took me from somewhere where I was going down the wrong path after my (wrestling) coach got fired,” Larson said. “So, I wanted to do the same for these students and these young adults. I want to be able to do whatever I can to help them and further their career, if it be military for life just four years.”
Larson joined the Navy 14 years ago after a brief stint in college, where he wrestled. After his coach’s employment terminated, Larson was looking for a new opportunity. When a friend of his started looking into the Navy SEAL program, Larson went along and changed the course of his life.
He enlisted in the Navy to be a ship’s serviceman, now renamed to “retail specialist,” where he has performed a variety of duties, including his most recent duties as a barber aboard Navy vessels. Larson started his Navy career in Japan where he was assigned to a destroyer and a cruiser, moved on to working at a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida, then on to Guam for three more years assigned to a ship. Then he went on to serve aboard the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 68) out of San Diego, before sailing the ship up to Bremerton, Washington for a few years and then back to San Diego. Larson is now back to his home state of Minnesota to scout future talent for the Navy, where he recruits mere miles away from where he graduated high school.
Having moved all around the world and now moving back home can definitely put a stress on families. Larson is no different. He admits that while he hates packing and the physical aspect of moving, he always takes advantage of the new opportunities to expand his social network.
Larson said when he moves to a new location, he always tries to fit in immediately.
“I’m already meeting my neighbors. That’s like, number one thing,” he said. “Every place I have moved, we have made lifelong friends, but they’re more like family. They know what we’re going through, we know what they’re going through.”
Larson is married and the two have an 11-year-old child. Packing up a household of three and moving around that much is certainly a challenge, but now Larson is looking to convert to recruiting full-time as he has found a new love and appreciation for sharing his stories and offering similar opportunities to the younger generation.
“I want them to be able to come back to me and say, ‘thank you, yeah, you changed my life,” he said. “I knew it was a challenge and I love to take on a challenge.”
Even though Larson has only been recruiting for two months, he has already found five future Sailors to begin new careers, including two nuclear field prospects. He has many more in the pipeline that he is still communicating with and as any talent scout will tell you, if you do not have a constant flow of people to talk to, the job can be extremely stressful.
It does not appear to affect Larson, however.
“I don’t let it stress me out. I’m a religious man, all the fears and all that stress, I give it to Him and I just come to work every day and push myself,” he said. “I tell myself, ‘Hey, don’t give up, don’t take it easy.’ Like I said, I love talking to people, so it’s more of a hobby to talk to people than a job for me.”
Where Larson really seems to shine is when he is in the public eye. Always one to talk to anyone who comes near him, he still has his favorite places to recruit from.
“I’d have to say fairs and music festivals [are my favorite]. In schools, you know, you get to talk to the students, but when you’re at these fairs and you’re at these festivals, everyone sees who you are,” Larson said. “And I think it’s a bigger impact when it comes to being so isolated from the [ocean], not everyone knows that we’re out here. To be able to get that platform to show who we are is truly amazing.”
As for his early success, and likely continued success, Larson seems to know the trick, at least for him, to gain trust and create relationships with his community.
“It’s super easy if you talk to them like a human being. One thing a chief back in the day told me was, ‘there’re people out there who want the Navy, but they don’t know they want the Navy yet,’” Larson said.
Larson uses his own experiences, the benefits of military service, and vast life experiences he has had to help tell his story and share with applicants what they can expect.
“Use the facts to your advantage. Everything that you tell a prospect or a student, they can Google it, so don’t lie. You’re going to get caught up in your lies,” he said. “Let the facts do the work. My job is to tell them the facts, and if they like it, they like it – if they don’t, then I wish them a wonderful day.”
Larson is quick to point out that it doesn’t always end there. He said that if you keep the relationship going and maintain a friendly, consultative approach, you might be surprised at the results.
“I’ve had plenty of people where I give them the facts and they say, ‘no.’ And then a week or two later, they call me back and say, ‘you know what, let’s do this,’” he said.
Larson continues to foster those relationships as he looks for continued opportunities to get involved with his community, including working with the Sea Cadets, volunteering and being active in his own first-class mess within the command.
For Larson, it has been determination and a positive attitude. For NTAG Northern Plains and the Navy Recruiting Command as whole, it looks to be a long-term win.
NTAG Northern Plains is responsible for the Navy’s enlisted and officer recruiting, covering 393,000 square miles in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, and parts of Illinois, Nebraska and Wisconsin.