It's hard to deny that these are troubled times. Brave women and men
are in high demand to defend their country and preserve peace around the world.
"The way the world is now, with the increased recognition of global security
and domestic security, we're expanding," says Captain Holly Brown, a military
public affairs officer.
"To take on the missions that we've been given over the past decade, it's
difficult to accomplish with the numbers we have, so the government has made
it a priority to expand the forces," she says.
People join the military for many reasons.
"Service to country, learning a skill, and gaining money for education
are usually the top three reasons," says Douglas Smith. He's a public affairs
officer for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
"There are other aspects, such as physical challenge and the chance to
travel," Smith adds. "In the current climate we're in, service to country
is an obvious point."
In a survey of potential recruits, "career opportunities" was identified
as the most common draw to the military. "The next one is challenging work
and pride in the job -- they want to do something they can be proud of," Brown
"And you can't underestimate the patriotism of youth," she adds.
The Drive for Recruits
Military recruiters are trying harder than ever -- and succeeding -- to
get talented and qualified young people to join their ranks. The service offers
steady work, great pay and a paid education to boot.
Each year, the U.S. Department of Defense recruits about 300,000 service
Recruiters don't just go out and sign people up on the street. They have
precise goals and budgets allotted for recruiting.
The military has started taking a marketing approach to recruiting because
of the strong competition from the private sector.
Master Sgt. Juan C. Demiranda is an account executive for enlisted programs
at the Air Force Recruiting Service. "[The Air Force] achieves public awareness
by targeting its market through the use of NASCAR...and television advertising,"
he says. "For recruiting marketing, we utilize television, online, radio,
magazine, airforce.com, college newspapers and trade journals.
"We've also focused recent efforts toward recruiting minorities so that
the Air Force more accurately reflects the people it serves. Special emphasis
is placed on Hispanic and African-American recruitment within the 18 to 24
Incentives to Join
The armed forces are offering huge incentives, such as signing bonuses
and education packages. This is in addition to the standard benefits available,
such as vacation pay, job advancement and health insurance.
"The incentives are better than ever," says Smith.
Brown agrees. "There has never been a better time to join the forces, in
terms of pay and job opportunities," she says.
If you have specialized skills in certain high-demand specialties, you
can get cash bonuses totaling $40,000 for an enlistment in the U.S. Army of
four or more years.
A few examples of high-demand specialties are fire support specialist,
satellite communications system operator-maintainer, and petroleum supply
But even those lacking such specialized training may be eligible for thousands
of dollars in incentives and bonuses. For example, high school seniors may
be eligible for a $1,000 bonus, and those with civilian skills that the army
needs and who enlist for three or more years may be eligible for a $5,000
There is also a student loan repayment program with a maximum of $65,000
for those who enlist for at least three years.
What They Want
"With more than 150 job descriptions to choose from, pretty much anything
you find in civilian life is reflected in the army -- everything from journalist
to medical skills to military police," says Smith.
"Every job that it takes to run a small town is what it takes to run the
military," Brown says. "We have something for just about everybody."
Smith says misconceptions keep a lot of people away from a military career.
Many pass on the opportunity due to "fear of basic training or fear that
being in the army is like basic training all the time," Smith says.
"Another misconception is that all soldiers are in the combat arms. There
are lots of other job areas, such as band, medical, administrative -- there
are lots of mechanical and electronics sorts of (jobs) as well."
To join the military, you aren't required to have a degree in hand, but
it does help.
Here are the basic enlistment qualifications for the U.S. Army:
- U.S. citizen or permanent legal resident
- 17 to 42 years of age
- Healthy and fit
- In good moral standing
- High school diploma or equivalent
Smith says that those who have at least a high school diploma and score
on the top half of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)
have more opportunities in the U.S. military. And college graduates might
be eligible for consideration as officers.
"The beauty is you don't have to have skills to join the military. We will
train you," says Brown. "If you want to be a doctor, for example, we will
subsidize your education.
"We're more focused on jobs than careers, because people change jobs several
times over the span of their careers," says Brown. "We're trying to dispel
the myth that it's a lifetime commitment. Try it for a few years, and if you
like it, you're welcome to stay."
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