Staff Sgt. Julian Lopez, Permanent Contact Station Escondido, Calif., Recruiting Station San Diego stands at attention in the back of the room as Navy and Marine Corps enlistees swear in at the Military Entrance Processing Station in San Diego.
He is an early riser, out of bed by 3 a.m. and on the road to work by 4. His mission: to find highly-qualified men and women to fill the ranks of the Marine Corps.
He reports to his post with razor-sharp creases and a red blood stripe running down the outside of his trousers. Upon his head rests a white cover displaying a golden eagle, globe and anchor. The determination can be seen in his eyes.
Staff Sgt. Julian Lopez, a recruiter assigned to Recruiting Station San Diego has done well early in his recruiting career. Although being a recruiter was not his first choice’he wanted to be a drill instructor’Lopez made the most of it enthusiastically.
“Staff Sgt. Lopez is one of my most consistent and successful recruiters,” said Maj. Kate Germano, commanding officer, RS San Diego. “He is ranked in the top two percent of all my recruiters for consistently meeting the quality and quantity standards when it comes to recruiting.”
Lopez lives by the saying: “Attitude is everything.” By doing so he has earned several awards, including Rookie Recruiter of the Year for Recruiting Station San Diego and several Recruiter of the Month and Quarter awards.
Lopez, a native of Cali, Colombia, came to the U.S. in 1995 at age 16. He joined the Marine Corps’ Delayed Entry Program in August 1996.
Coming from Colombia at his father’s request, Lopez admits not knowing much about the United States except that many people from Colombia think the United States is the best country in the world.
Lopez joined his father in Miami and eventually went to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., for recruit training in January 1997 under an aviation logistics supply contract.
As if recruit training was not challenging enough, when Lopez left for boot camp, he did not speak English.
Lopez looked to fellow recruits for help with this language barrier and became more proficient with English after the completion of boot camp and attending school.
After eight years in the Fleet Marine Force, Lopez received orders to recruiting duty.
He volunteered to go to Iraq for a second tour, but Lopez was needed at Recruiters School aboard the depot here. Lopez accepted the mission ahead of him and vowed to do his best.
Upon completion of Recruiters School, he was assigned to Recruiting Substation El Cajon, Calif.
To some, being a Marine is tough enough, let alone being tasked each day with facing constant challenges regarding possible candidates.
But Lopez remembers what it was like coming to America knowing nothing about the military, only that he wanted to be a part of the best. He expected the Marine Corps to be tough, so facing the extreme obstacles in recruiting did not come as a surprise.
“After I did my research, knowing nothing about the military, I saw the Marine Corps was the best,” said Lopez with a thick Colombian accent. “The Marines are the smallest branch, they fill the need for that pride of belonging, and the challenges we face day-to-day are what attracted me.”
Throughout his time in the Marine Corps, Lopez has had many influences who assisted him throughout his successful career, but he attributes his recruiting success to the leadership of Gunnery Sgt. Shawn Hudachko, Lopez’s staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge at RSS El Cajon.
Lopez said he learned everything he knows about recruiting from Hudachko who taught him that success comes from consistency. And following this rule, Lopez brings in two to three future Marines each month. Although Lopez has good and bad recruiting months, he has never contracted fewer than two people into the Corps in any month.
Lopez said he is not a pushy recruiter. He understands that it is the prospective Marine’s life and it is his future at stake.
“I don’t like ‘what if’ when I talk with someone about his future,” said Lopez. “I keep my word, so I put all my cards on the table and let him make the decision.”
Lopez’s honest technique worked with Marine enlistee, Stephen C. Martinez. Martinez, 22, said he had considered going into the military since high school and finally decided to take a trip to his local recruiting office. When he opened the door, the Marines were the first recruiters he saw.
“My intentions were to talk to every military branch in the office, but after talking to the Marines, I knew that was what I wanted to do,” said Martinez. “Staff Sgt. Lopez told me everything and was completely honest.”
Martinez was so sure about which direction he wanted his life to go that he enlisted just six days after his initial visit to Permanent Contact Station Escondido, Calif. where Lopez now recruits.
Although Martinez did not become a reconnaissance Marine, he was in the infantry. He said he chose infantry in order to experience more travel and adventure.
“Martinez is going to be motivated,” said Lopez. “Some recruits you can never tell, but I know he is going to do well.”
In the recruiting field, long hours often accompany late nights and less time with family. Sometimes having to work more than 80 hours a week focusing on their mission, some recruiters find it hard to distinguish between work and home life, said Lopez.
While some recruiters say finding highly-qualified individuals to join the Corps is the hardest part of their job, Lopez feels that maintaining the other roles in life is more challenging.
Keeping clear the roles of being a recruiter, husband, mentor and father in check is difficult, according to Lopez.
Managing the time to keep in close contact with the future Marines while raising a family is a major challenge many recruiters face, he said.
Although the hours are long, life as a recruiter is anything but ordinary. Recruiters face challenges each day while attempting to spread the word about the Marine Corps in high schools and teenage hangouts.
Once a recruiter goes to a high school, it is his goal to find an interested senior to help him reach more seniors. Students are more prone to listen to their peers than to a recruiter. Lopez said networking is the key to recruiting.
“My goal is to meet and talk with at least two seniors every time I go to a high school,” said Lopez. Building strong relationships with school officials is a big factor in a recruiter’s success.
By setting up events like pull-up challenges and inflatable obstacle courses, recruiters challenge students to see – not if the Corps is good enough for them, but if they are good enough for the Corps.
Lopez says the greatest reward of being a recruiter is laying out successful career paths for individuals to get their lives straight.
He said when a Marine returns from boot camp and thanks him, he knows his hard work has paid off and it all feels worthwhile.
Lopez reenlisted Dec. 14, adding another four years of dedicated service to his 11 year career.
“No matter what you do in life, you have to make the best of it,” said Lopez. “It’s all about attitude; if you are negative you don’t get results. If you stay motivated, you will get what you want. You have to be positive.”