Patriotism leads many to service


It’s a more dangerous world and yet local military recruiters’ cell phones apparently are ringing at a steady pace.

The hazards of serving in the Iraq War, now in its fifth year, aren’t any secret: Roadside bombs, suicide bombers, ambushes and kidnappings, record-setting heat and a yearlong tour away from family and friends.

Despite such potentially perilous duty, more Marines are signing up for combat roles, according to Marine Sgt. Thomas Lantz, a spokesman in the Pittsburgh recruiting office, which oversees the Loyalsock Township station that gets recruits from Lycoming and Clinton counties.

“They want to be in the infantry, (learn how to operate and work in) tanks and (use) mortars,” Lantz said. “That didn’t happen before 9/11.”

Marines haven’t changed their standards.

“Our numbers are increasing steadily, not drastic,” Lantz said. “I think it’s patriotism.”

The Marines have signed 34 people this year so far, 28 from May to May last year, Lantz said.

Before the terrorist attacks five years ago, he said, Marines joined for college money, a career, adventure or travel, or because their father was a Marine.

Recruiters at offices of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard also said they are busy.

Joshua Hudson, a spokesman for the Navy working in Pittsburgh, said while statistics and numbers are interesting, they don’t accurately indicate the mindset or motivation for recruits.

For Naval recruiters, the goal last year was 1,374 for the district, including half of the state, most of New York, much of West Virginia and the panhandle of Maryland, Hudson said.

He was unable to provide specific figures for Williamsport’s office.

Historically, Hudson said, some months will have fewer applicants than others. Typical factors may involve making decisions during school, holidays and economics, he said.

Staff Sgt. Andrea Thacker, a spokeswoman for the Air Force, said Williamsport is the most productive office in the recruiting region, known as C-Flight. That region covers Wellsboro, Selinsgrove, Towanda, State College, Bloomsburg and the city, Thacker said.

“We have signed up five people in the last two months,” she said.

It’s not all about flight with the Air Force, which offers more than 150 jobs.

Enlistees get 100-percent college tuition, 30 days’ paid vacation, 100-percent medical and dental insurance and a 20-year retirement option, Thacker said.

Coast Guard spokesman Chief Joseph Colonna, recruiter in charge for central Pennsylvania in the Harrisburg office, said the range is about 11 to 13 people per year. The Coast Guard recruited 4,100 full-time and 775 Reserve in the past year. Recruits go to boot camp at Camp May, N.J.

The Coast Guard’s role hasn’t changed, but more people recognize it’s importance since oversight switched from the Department of Transportation to the Department of Homeland Security in March 2002, he said.

The Coast Guard performs law enforcement, search and rescue assignments, environmental protection, military preparedness, marine safety, aides to navigation and pollution response.

The attacks against America brought the Coast Guard’s role to the attention of people like it never had before, Colonna said.

Army and Army Reserve spokesman William Irwin also provided figures that indicate recruitment figures aren’t dropping because of the war.

Capt. Jonathan P. Miller, an Iraqi war veteran, and commander of the State College office, which includes oversight of Williamsport, said his role will be to position the company as a leader in the all-volunteer force.

Miller knows from which he speaks when it comes to war service. His previous tour was working as the executive officer of an Iraqi assistance group, training Iraqi national police in Baghdad.

Section: Posted: 6/17/2007