Sunday, July 08, 2007

National Guard Recruiting Update

Our country has a long and honorable history of young people, especially men, straightening out their lives through the discipline [mental, physical and spiritual] of military service, and remaining productive citizens when they return to civilian life. It's important to look at the "whole person" in everything.

USA Today has a story on a very successful National Guard recruiting initiative: Current National Guard members. Of course they're credible: They're doing it themselves. [Unlike, say, the Yellow Elephants.]

However, it's important that those needing additional supervision not drag down an entire unit. That's why we're disturbed by this:

Word of mouth helps Guard gain

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One of the most productive part-time recruiters in Virginia, is Sgt. Keith Sydnor, a Guard member whose civilian job is to bring bail skippers back to justice. Since February 2006, Sydnor has earned $30,000 in extra commissions for referrals to recruiters.

"Based on the time period of the day, if they should be in school or should be at work and I see them out on the street or at a bus stop I'll stop and talk to them," Sydnor says. "Nine times out of 10 they're unemployed or looking for work."

Sometimes he pulls aside people in trouble with the law who he's had to track down and bring to court, provided they're found not guilty or are convicted of misdemeanors.

"When they get a little confused in life and need some discipline or to go in a different direction, that's when it comes in," he says.

Among his first questions: "What's your passion?" The Guard has so many different jobs that recruits who qualify can often find something they'd like, Sydnor says.

Recruits often want to know what it's like in Iraq. Unlike many full-time recruiters, Sydnor's been there.
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Helping to change a life

Pvt. Daniel Strickland, 17, of Manassas, Va., learned about the Guard through Meredith Raynor, his social studies teacher at Commonwealth Challenge, a five-month military-style boot camp program for at-risk children.

Raynor, 35, is also a recruiter assistant who's earned $4,000 [corrected] in commissions this year by referring young people she works with to join the Guard.

"There were some posters in the classroom and I asked her about the Guard," Strickland says.

Strickland says he ended up in Challenge because he was getting in trouble and his parents decided "it was time for a change." He earned his GED through the program, and now the Guard is helping him attain two more important goals: Serve his country and get an education.

He's enrolled in Northern Virginia Community College and hopes to transfer to Virginia Military Institute. And it doesn't bother him that Raynor earned $1,000 when he enlisted and will get another $1,000 when he goes to basic training.

"She just helped change somebody's life," he says.

Jodie Evans, co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink, says the idea of recruiting at-risk children to go to war is "really frightening."

"I've worked with at-risk kids," Evans says. "Every single one of the at-risk kids in my community, their fathers were in Vietnam. It takes years to get them balanced."

Strickland disagrees.

Raynor only talked to him about joining the Guard because he expressed interest and after he graduated from the program. Kids who finish "are no longer at risk, they are adults," he says.

OYE Comment:

We remain very concerned about indications of a decline in overall recruit quality. While individual cases may very well be worthwhile, too great a concentration can affect the unit.

That's why anyone eligible to serve who supports what our country is trying to do overseas has an obligation to contact a military recruiter today. Thank you.


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