Military Service Enlistment Increasing

January 30, 2009 9:32:50 PM PST
Getting a bonus check is ancient history in today's economy where jobs are being slashed and a deepening recession is limiting job growth. Those facts are actually helping a "particular" American employer provide jobs and bonuses.Job opportunities in the Central Valley are disappearing right and left ... except in one particular sector: military service. Enlistment - with appealing benefits and bonuses its drawing new kinds of recruits in spite of two ongoing wars.

It is a long distance, some 7-thousand 5 hundred miles, from the wars still being waged in Iraq and the winter chill of Afghanistan to the old Guarantee Bank building on the mall in downtown Fresno. But that is the new home to a recruiting battalion of the U.S. Army led by Lt. Col. Rick Ellis, "I have served seven deployments overseas in combat zones." The Colonel's mission these days is to increase the ranks of the U.S. army. His territory runs from San Francisco to Los Angles, 85-thousand square miles of California that includes the Central Valley. And he's looking for qualified men and women to join his profession, "We're seeing' about a 63 percent increase in higher educational levels. As the economy goes down, historically, our quality of force, the people who give us a second look, rises."

This week he was meeting three new recruits who fit that bill. They came to these recruiting battalion offices to talk with us about choosing their choice to enlist. It was there first meeting with Col. Ellis, "How you doing' sir? Good. Outstanding!" As he made them feel welcome we asked about their decisions to join the Army. Each has negotiated thousands of dollars in bonuses, incentives and educational benefits, all based on how well they succeed in their service.

Fresno resident, Blake Dunn, a 27 year old college graduate and married father of a newborn son is committed to serving. As a college graduate he's eligible and headed to officer's training after boot camp. He and his wife reached this decision together. The choice will allow his wife to quit working and to pay off his 35 thousand dollar college loans, "We decided this would be a positive step, taking all the good and the bad that this would be a direction we both would like to go."

23 year old Pasha Williams of Madera whose 4 year commitment could pay for law school at Stanford is also prepared to work hard, survive boot camp, and see the world, "I was really in the process of changing my major to teaching 'cause I wasn't going to be able to pay for law school." A friend, already in the army, urged her to give it a try. A decision she made to secure a future down the road.

27 year old Bennie Romiti, a Valley law enforcement officer, is re-joining the military as reservist. Once re-trained as a drill sergeant he'll get a 15-thousand dollar bonus and also something equally as valuable to him, "To go mentor new soldiers coming in, whether it be that or being deployed overseas, bein' able to continue my military service, I will do with pride."

As for a dangerous deployment, well, the army is, after all, a profession of arms. The possibility of service overseas is very real for every new recruit says Lt. Col. Ellis, "There's no guarantee that you won't end up, a year from now, two years from now in Iraq or Afghanistan or some other hot spot. We're called upon by our commander-in-chief."

And this week president Barak Obama began a troop increase in Afghanistan just as a renewed level of violence broke out in Iraq. We wish these and all those in military service to America well.

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