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News | April 29, 2024

Eau Claire area Guard member named Recruiter of the Year

By Vaughn R. Larson

Earlier in his military career, Staff Sgt. Lance Lauffer was a member of the 82nd Airborne Division and deployed to Haiti and Afghanistan.

“The lives we impacted during that Haiti deployment was what really inspired me to join the National Guard,” Lauffer said, “so I could give back to my community, state and country.”

Exactly nine years after ending his time on active duty, Lauffer — a Colfax, Wisconsin native — joined the Wisconsin Army National Guard on a one-year contract, “to see if I had what it takes to be a successful recruiter.”

In 2020 Lauffer reenlisted for another six years, and today he is the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s recruiter of the year.

“At the start of fiscal year 2023 my goal wasn’t to be the top recruiter in the state,” he explained. “Instead, my goal was to help my team in Eau Claire across the finish line and complete our mission. We had a mission of 38 in Eau Claire, and unfortunately we fell a bit short at 35.”

Lauffer was responsible for 17 of those 35 individuals who raised their hand and swore an oath, entering the Wisconsin Army National Guard. He said recruiters face many challenges getting recruits to that point. For example, a more comprehensive medical screening process uncovers issues that can create barriers to enlistment.

“If something medically doesn’t disqualify them, then it seems like they have either something morally wrong or they can’t pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB),” Lauffer said. “The Army has helped us out with a program for individuals who need to lose weight to meet the Army standards, along with the tutoring school that helps troops pass the ASVAB.”

Getting recruits to sign on the dotted line is still only part of the challenge facing recruiters.

“It’s been a challenge to get them completely through the training pipeline and into their units without them getting hurt, having legal issues or straight up quitting on us,” Lauffer said.

While acknowledging that he is a competitive person, Lauffer said his experience as an implement dealer selling parts and service to local farmers, combined with his love and passion for the military, have proven invaluable in his current role as a recruiter.

“When you are in sales, you learn real fast that you need to gain the individual’s trust,” Lauffer explained. “They need to feel that you do have their best interests at hand and you are here to make sure they are taken care of. I know my applicants feel that when they sit down with me, I am completely honest with them, and that’s where I have been able to build that trust with them and their parents.”

Lauffer’s goal is to stay in the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion for the remainder of his career.

“Eventually I would like to lead a team or detachment of recruiters so I can work with them directly,” Lauffer said, “to mentor and inspire them to become successful recruiting and retention noncommissioned officers.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Christopher Beron, with the Wisconsin Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion, praised Lauffer in an interview with News 8 in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

“In our business, numbers matter, but being selected as Chief’s 54 is about much more than the number," Beron said. "Staff Sgt. Lauffer was also a stand-out in noncommissioned officer and recruiter competencies, leadership and professionalism.”