Patriotism, economy behind rise in military recruitment
2009 high school graduates indicating they expected to join the military:
Big Foot UHS, 8
Elkhorn Area, 12
Williams Bay, 1
Badger UHS, 4
East Troy Community, 0
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At the U.S. Army recruiting station in Burlington, 1st Sgt. Aaron Green meets with new recruit Scott Wasilevich of Burlington, who recently enlisted and is heading to Fort Knox in November. Recruiting stations across Wisconsin are seeing an increase in enlistments by high school graduates. Terry Mayer/staff.
BURLINGTON — At the Madison Recruiting Company, which covers a territory stretching east to Burlington, Wis., west to the Iowa border, and as far north as Baraboo, U.S. Army 1st Sgt. Bobby Jones has seen an increase in the number of young recruits enlisting in the military.
“It’s been on the rise across the board over the last four years,” Jones said, noting during that time period, the Burlington office has had a total of 22 recruits.
From 2006 through 2009, 21 seniors from the Delavan-Darien School District enlisted, 16 of them in 2009.
Jones believes a sense of patriotism is the principal motivation driving the increase in enlistments.
“With this age group, you really couldn’t say there’s a direct connection to 9-11,” Jones said of the terrorist attacks in 2001. “It’s more what they’ve seen of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There’s a feeling from them that they need to do their part to help keep the freedoms we enjoy as a country.”
There’s another reason young people are turning to the military after graduation: employment.
“Now, a lot of (the motivation for joining the military) has to do with changes in the economy,” Jones said. “Employers aren’t hiring now, and (recruits) have the chance to be trained in jobs that we have openings for. Plus, they receive money for college.”
That’s particularly true in rural areas.
“There aren’t as many options (for young high school graduates) in those areas,” Jones said. “So they’re looking at the military, not only as a way to serve their country, but to get more experience and take advantage of college benefits.”
Other recruiters agree.
“There’s a competitiveness in the work force today,” said U.S. Marine Corps Master Gunnery Sgt. John Purcell, a recruiter for a station in Milwaukee that covers most of Wisconsin, northwestern Illinois and all of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
“High school graduates need more than a college degree,” he said. “They’re looking for something to make them competitive in the work force. They’re saying, ‘I’m coming to the Marine Corps because I want to stand out. An employer is going to know I’m calm under pressure. I have leadership skills. I have intangible qualities you don’t necessarily learn in the classroom.’ The Marine Corps has always drawn those individuals who seek out the intangibles.”
Read the full story in the e-edition of Walworth County Sunday, HERE.