August 13, 2008
Military recruiters highlight future goals

By Stephanie Bemrose

The beginning of a new school year means many different things for many groups of people.

One group, military recruiters, works around a fiscal year cycle and not an academic cycle, so they have stayed busy throughout the summer.

Actually, the school market isn’t a great market for the Navy, according to Ship Serviceman 1st Class Jermaine Moore, Bossier City Navy recruiter, but it is a chance to plant a seed.
"Once reality kicks in for students that they have graduated and now they have to do something, we don't have to do a lot of chasing; they usually walk through the door."

Although the Air Force has fewer recruiters than other branches, the Barksdale community supports them very well.

"Word of mouth is our biggest selling point," said Air Force Master Sgt. Jason Monday, district supervisor for the Ark-La-Tex region.

Whether a military family or not, all the recruiters' offices have to occasionally address hesitant parents.

Some parents who don't want to let go of their children will talk them out of joining the military, Moore added.

"We get that a lot," Moore said. But, he added, a year later, the person will walk back into the recruiters' office.

Monday said Air Force recruiters sometimes have to overcome misconceptions with civilian parents, just as any branch does.

"They're worried about their son's or daughter's safety, and we let them know up front that we are an expeditionary force," Monday said. "We don't hide deployments. We are a branch of the military and we go to war — that's our job. But we train our airmen well."

"You'll always have to address the issue of the war," added Army Staff Sgt. Brutus Carter, Army Reserve recruiter. "You can't beat around the bush or say, 'you'll never go to war.' It's an issue. Yes, you probably will deploy. That's where you find the importance of choosing the type of job that fits you. If you love finances, then choose a financial job. If you love working in the warehouse, get a warehouse job. If you like cooking, cook."


In a strong Air Force-heavy community, it's hard for the Navy to compete, according to Operations Specialist 2nd Class Charles Wardlaw, Bossier City Navy recruiter.

But it's easier for the Navy to recruit in schools that do not have an ROTC program, Moore said.

"Most of the kids in Bossier, the Air Force ROTC is really going to put them in — but schools like Ringgold or Minden or Gibsland, I can put those kids in because they're not biased on what branch they join," Moore said.

One of the ways the Navy stands out is its travel opportunities.

"No other branch is going to travel as much as we do because we're not confined to an area, we go on ships that can go to 10-12 countries in a six-month period," Moore said, adding that their deployments are four to five months long.

"We're the only branch out that can guarantee the job — it's right there on the contract," Moore said.

Moore also said promotion rates are faster because they are based on schooling. And, as far as educational opportunities go, "when we go on deployments, we're not in a combat zone, we're on a ship and we have college professors who come on the ship with us who teach classes, and those classes are free of charge — no tuition," Moore said.

Moore added that aircraft carriers have a better quality of life than in the field in the other branches.

"They eat MREs, but we get three square meals a day, a shower every night," Moore said, adding that sometimes famous people visit aircraft carriers.

The only disadvantage about the Navy might be is if you don't like water, Wardlaw said. "If you like water, you'll be fine."

Quincy Jones, a Navy recruit who has lived in Bossier City his whole life, got information about the Navy from his girlfriend, who is a Navy brat.

"I have a few friends in the Army National Guard. But if you're going to do the military, you might as well go all the way with it," Jones said.


Carter thanked the Air Force family for serving their country and for their sacrifices.

"We're all the Department of Defense," he said. "The soldiers on the ground would have a hell of a harder time without the bombers' support. We definitely appreciate everything they do."

However, the nearby base adds another degree of difficulty for the Army's recruiting efforts.

"I wouldn't say it's impossible, because we put plenty of Air Force kids in," Carter said. "I like recruiting Air Force kids. I always encourage kids to compare branches; sometimes you will find Air Force parents who don't want them to compare branches because they already 'know' what the Army is about."

He explained some of the stereotypes include soldiers fighting on the frontlines and soldiers being the first to go into combat. He pointed out the majority of the Army is set up to support the front lines.

"I tell them, 'it's not your daddy or your momma who is going to be putting your boots on every day. You have to know it's all about benefiting you.'"

What stands out about the Army, Carter said, is it's mandatory for new recruits to pick their own job, and he said they will get it in writing before signing a contract. Since the Army is large and has a lot of bases, there are more opportunities for transferring to different bases, Carter added.

Also, the Army trains special forces troops differently, from a civilian into special forces.

"In other branches, you have to be in and get selected, Carter said.

"We have 'high school to flight school,'" added Sgt. 1st Class Johnny Bonyfield, Bossier City Army recruiter, explaining soldiers can go straight from high school to become a helicopter pilot.

Bonyfield added they have better training than all the other branches.

"A lot of branches come to us to get trained," he said.


For the Marine Corps, it's not difficult to recruit either military brats or civilian kids.

"Recruiting is the ability to establish a bond and trust with somebody. You've got to ask yourself as a recruiter if they trust me and believe in me and the Marine Corps. If either one of those are in jeopardy, nine times out of 10, they're not going to join," said Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Meikos Ellis, Shreveport Marine recruiter and assistance NCO in charge.

"If they do not want to be a Marine, we really don't try to encourage them to cross over into the blue because if you know about the Marine Corps, then it's an easy decision," Ellis added.

People are usually surprised to know the Marines are the second largest air force, and are all the branches combined: air, land and sea.

"We have more than 363 career fields that we offer, but everybody likes to focus on one — that's infantry," Ellis said, adding they are the smartest corps of their force. "I've recruited valedictorians and salutatorians, and they all went infantry."

Brandie Hogan, a Huntington High School senior and Marine poolee, wants to be a Marine Corps military police. She said when she came to the Marine Corps station, she wanted to go into the Marines, because it's the toughest branch.

"If I could, I would do infantry — but I can't," she said.

Tyler Ortego, a Byrd High School graduate and Marine poolee, wants to be in military intelligence. He wanted a challenge, and the Marines were the biggest challenge.

Air Force

Recruiting is not the only focus for the Air Force, according to Monday.

"We attend a lot of volunteer activities, peer groups, career fairs, speaking in classrooms about career opportunities — a lot of things that don't have to do specifically with recruiting, but more geared toward community awareness."

"We're on track to meeting the Air Forces personnel needs," said Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stephen Whitehead, Bossier City Air Force recruiter, added they had met their goals in June.

Whitehead said what stands out about the branch is its education package.

"You're automatically enrolled in the Community College of the Air Force, so you can earn free credits for basic training, technical training, and on-the-job upgrade training," Whitehead said.

Monday also mentioned CCAF.

"CCAF is America's largest community college and the only degree-granting institution in the world dedicated entirely to Air Force personnel," he said.

The Air Force has more completed associates degrees each year than any other branch.

"We also give out more tuition assistance and more funding," Monday said. "It just kind of validates that education is key — it's very important in the Air Force's role."

Something else that separates the Air Force is that they only take percent of their force who are not high school graduates.

"Our big focus is on the tier-one graduates — we want the cream of the crop," Monday said.

Something else that stikes out about the Air Force is its quality of life, Monday said.

"You can go on base and take a look," he said. "We realize, and have realized for a long time, that if you take care of the people, it helps retention. People like to have nice places to live, to eat, to work out."