Despite war in Iraq, military recruitment is ‘business as usual’

Warm weather often leads to a marked increase in potential military recruits.

Geoffrey Ziezulewicz

The Dinkydome Army recruiting office is a cozy little room nestled on the third floor overlooking the bustle on 15th Avenue Southeast.

But the large number of people walking past the building is a stark contrast to the number walking into Sgt. Raymond Wilson’s office.

Wilson said there has not been an increase in enlistment, even with the large number of U.S. troops now in Iraq.

“With the level of walk-ins and call-ins, it is pretty much the same,” Wilson said.

Local representatives from all branches of the armed services said there has been no change in the number of interested people coming through their doors since the onset of the war in Iraq.

However, after Sept. 11, 2001, enrollment numbers increased significantly, Marines Public Affairs Officer Staff Sgt. JJ Rodriquez said. He said his office has not seen a dramatic increase in recruits.

Wilson said he fields inquiries from approximately 20 interested people coming in or calling per month. He also goes with other recruiters to high schools and colleges looking for interested individuals. Since the onset of the war, nothing has changed.

“Right now, it’s just business as usual,” Wilson said.

Mary Lou Eckstrand is the public affairs officer for Army recruiting in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. She said so far, for the 2003 fiscal year, there has been no change in recruitment numbers for either active or reserve service members, which reflects static national recruitment levels.

Each year, the recruiters get a target number of people for enlistment. Eckstrand said the recruiters are on track to fulfilling their mission quota. She said firm evidence of whether the war in Iraq has affected recruitment is not yet available.

“It’s too early to tell,” Eckstrand said. “It will take us a month to go through all the required background checks and things such as physicals.”

New applicants have to fill out an application and pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test, which consists of standard questions in a variety of areas, such as math and reading ability, Wilson said.

“Basically, this test determines if an individual is qualified to join the Army and which areas they may be best for,” Wilson said. Recruits also undergo physical examinations and background checks.

Potential recruits usually come in because of the opportunity to travel, the financial incentives, the service to country, the educational possibilities and the adventure of the armed services, Wilson said.

He usually sees an increase as the weather warms up around campus.

“Usually during the summertime there is a larger increase of enrollment,” Wilson said. “Towards the end of the school year, there are a lot of high school students who aren’t going to college, or college students who are going to graduate and don’t have any plans and no job, so they look to the Army.”

Wilson said he has noticed no adverse effects on recruiting from any of the on-campus antiwar demonstrators.

“We get notified when there are protesters on campus,” he said. “We tend not to walk around the campus at that time.”