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Kitsap County recruiters balance desires of civilian and soldier to meet recruiting
The reasons for joining the military today are largely the same as they were 50 years ago, duty, honor, country, and a steady paycheck with dental.
Recruiters of the military branches are not oblivious to the fact that they, like every other company out there, are a business. But military recruitment strategy must also balance the intangible desires of the soldier with the practical concerns of the civilian.
According to U.S. Marine corps Sgt. Zachary Dyer some young men come into their recruitment offices simply looking for "pride or belonging or sense of accomplishment." Brotherhood and the idea of a community that watches out for each other may be enough to get them to sign on that line. These ideals are the ones that are printed on posters and banners for every recruitment office.
Sgt. Samuel L. Breese, a U.S. Army recruiter in Silverdale, said that it is actually an older population which comes in with the desire to give something back to their country or to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
"High schoolers generally don't come to us. We have to go out and get them. They have other things on their mind. Generally the people that have been out [in job market] for awhile, and have had time to think, come in and ask how can I do something for my country," said Sgt. Breese.
However, just as many local recruits walk in with the economic recession on the brain.
"In this area, people see Navy life all the time out and about in the community. They tell me, 'I want that life,'" said Breese.
Breese said that he sits down with potential recruits and counsels them on their goals, specifically what they are looking to get out of their military service.
"It depends on what they are looking for, but sometimes the army just has a better deal," said Breese.
Though it varies by branch and station, the military still offers a number of incentives to recruits including tuition assistance or waivers through the GI Bill, signing bonuses, health coverage for the recruit and his dependents, and a guaranteed job.
That last one, according to Breese, is huge, especially with so many young people finding it harder to get jobs out of school.
"You're not going to get fired. You'd have to try really hard to get yourself in that kind of trouble. There is no stagnation. You're guaranteed to advance. Imagine if you were working at a company for three years, no hopes of promotion, how many people ever make it to top management in corporate? But the Army promotes faster than any branch," said Breese.
Each recruiting office has a 'station mission' designated by the Department of Defense. These missions are goals set for recruitment per fiscal year. In 2011, the DOD set station missions of 64,000 recruits for the Army, 33,400 for Navy, 29,750 for Marine Corps, and 28,515 for Air Force.
On Oct. 20 of this year, the department stated that each of branch had met its mission goals by 100 percent.
For the Marine Corps recruiting office in Seattle that makes up 919 new contracts and 751 young men and women shipped to recruit training depots this year.
"Marine Corps recruiters are looking for the best and brightest," said Dyer. "And they are good at finding them."
Breese explained that station missions are not just an overall numbers game but break down into quotas for certain categories of recruits by educational background, test scores, and specializations as well. The most often requested position in the U.S. Army at the Silverdale recruit office is field medic.
"The Army allows you to make a temporary reservation for what you want to do with your recruiter. The reservation lasts for seven days until you can get to MEPS [military entrance processing station], where you will pass a test, physical, and talk to a counselor. All the information is up front, when you will do your basic training, where you'll do AIT [advanced individual training]," said Breese.
He explained that this level of specificity can put a recruit's minds at ease.
But the danger of actual combat is still a frequently discussed issue for recruiters.
"Our country is in a state of persistent conflict. It is a bigger decision right now to join," said Breese.
He recalled a time when he was doing recruiting and a young man said to him, 'I don't want to die.'
Breese himself has done three tours in Iraq and realizes that combat is not for everyone. However, for just as many, it remains part of the allure.
Breese originally joined because of college tuition waivers and the opportunity to get a degree through the military. But after an overseas tour, he realized that beyond the financial incentives, he had a real affinity for his job.
"I realized through my time that I was a much better soldier than civilian," said Breese.
Recruiters have no doubt that combat is a very real possibility of the job description, and look for the right qualities in their recruits.
"The higher ups may say that it's all soldier all the time, but being a good civilian is a big piece of that too," said Breese.
"The military has been involved in overseas contingency operations for the last 10 years. That means everyone who has joined the military or re-enlisted during the time has volunteered knowing there was a chance they could be deployed to a combat zone. That speaks volumes of the members of the military right now," said Dyer.