Twenty-one junior and senior Southeast High School students visited the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Parsons, Kansas this week to learn more about the military as a career option.
“What I hope the students get is more of an actual understanding of the military instead of just a guess or information a recruiter will give them,” said Southeast Civil Air Patrol instructor Allen Bruce, who retired from the military in 2008 as a Sergeant First Class. “It’s one thing to see pictures of the equipment and gear, it is a completely different experience to be able to put it in your hands, put it on, and truly have a firsthand experience.”
While the students migrated to the training rifles and took turns putting on some of the gear used during basic training, they also learned that there’s more to the modern and future military than simply being a pair of boots on the ground.
Sergeant First Class Josia Elzy is a recruiter from Pittsburg and he said that the military is similar to manufacturing plants in that they have gone from people turning wrenches to machines turning wrenches, with the need for individuals to maintain and improve those machines. This means students must focus on the core elements of education – math, science, writing and comprehension.
“It’s the same concept – we don’t need as much manpower on the ground; we need a lot of people behind the scenes,” said Sergeant Elzy. “We need them to be highly educated, focusing on math and science, things like that because we have highly evolved technology in the military and the Army specifically and we need educated individuals to run that equipment. When you’re talking about the drones and things like that, the robotics that we have, we need people that can understand how these things work.”
“First and foremost is education,” said U.S. Army Reserve Captain Gene Espinoza. “That in itself will decide on what type of job they can do in the military. We offer a wide range of different jobs.”
Captain Espinoza said in the Reserve those jobs range from truck drivers to surveyors, to engineers building major roadways and bridges.
“We need absolutely smart individuals that are out there ready to go and put their brain to use, just like any other branch of service,” said Sergeant Elzy. “We need educated individuals – we definitely have evolved.”
“On top of that, just physical fitness – all around fitness – we do a lot of running, jumping, so their athletic endurance is obviously key to that but ultimately the biggest thing we look for in future soldiers is dedication,” said Captain Espinoza. “If they want to join the military and they sign that dotted line they’re dedicated to starting a new chapter of their life and their career with fellow soldiers.”
Sergeant Elzy said that if a state has an emergency they call out the homebased, homegrown and quick reacting National Guard. But if more assistance is needed stateside they will call in the Army Reserve forces. The Reserve also may support an active duty installation for a time, assist in active duty for training or assist in their different rotations.
“We’re the backup, we’re the part-time,” said Sergeant Elzy. “When needed, when called, we come out and help. So they can still go to college. They can still have a full time career and then have a part time career serving.”
Sergeant Elzy said the Reserve provides an option to get paid, get some benefits, and serve the country, as young as age 17.
“They can serve their junior year, go to basic training between their junior and senior year, and then continue to serve their senior year,” said Sergeant Elzy. “They’ll finish their advanced training at the end of their senior year once they graduate, then go off to college, do whatever they choose to do, start a business, go to vo-tech, do all that good stuff and still be serving and they’ll already have time in the service before they even graduate high school. When I tell people that they can retire from the Reserve forces at 37 years old, it’s very realistic. You can spend 20 years that quick.”
So while many people are still figuring out what they want to do, Sergeant Elzy said the Reserve provides a part-time career path to give those who choose it something to fall back on while still building skills and leadership ability.
“This is a valuable option for a lot of students but they don’t normally get that exposure to it,” Sergeant Elzy said of the Southeast students visit to the Reserve center. “In my opinion, this is the best thing that could happen when students come out and put their hands on some stuff and learn and ask questions instead of us just always going to the schools. We can say ‘hey, this is what you can do – let’s actually show you what you can do.’”
“My goal is to expose all my students to every branch of the services during the year,” said Mr. Bruce. “For those who have an interest in joining the military I plan to give them information on all branches so that they can get an overall view so that they get more than a one-sided point of view.”