By Yalonda Wright and Brian Lepley, USARECJanuary 28, 2014
SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Jan. 28, 2014) -- U.S. Army All American Bowl (AAB) week gives U.S. Army Recruiting Command a chance to impress selected centers of influence from across the nation, providing these advocates the chance to see that Army service is about developing the whole person.
What follows are the impressions of several of USAREC's 27 VIP guests who visited bowl week in San Antonio earlier this month.
Tyler Zahn, the head football coach in Ralston, Nebraska, advocates for the Army in honor of his Korean War veteran father.
The 20-year teacher strives to open doors of schools to recruiters and capitalizes on "every opportunity to interact for the benefit of both the kids and the Army."
He said the Army has already made an impact on the students in his school district.
"Recruiters visit students and we work side by side," Zahn said. "They do a great job of interacting and the students respect them. Now we have to figure how to continue that, expand and increase interaction."
Much like the values the Army teach, Zahn talks to his players about personal courage, respect, camaraderie and the overall character of an American Soldier.
"Teamwork and camaraderie are number one," said Zahn. "If you don't have teamwork, you don't have a team and the U.S. Army wrote the book on teamwork."
Damon Wells, the football coach and assistant principal for Rifle, Colorado, is an Army believer after his visit to the Alamo City.
"Reformation has already taken place for me," said Damon Wells. "I believe in the power of what we learned and I'm impressed with the level of emphasis placed on higher education."
Wells' father retired from the Navy after 27 years. He said his football program references the sacrifice and effort displayed by the military and West Point.
"I regret I didn't serve," Wells said. "But I believe in the values the Army teach and some of the same values I teach my team."
He looks forward to staying in touch with recruiters and Army leaders because, he said, the Army has "invested in us."
"I want to say thank you to the Army and all of the senior leadership for bringing us to the Army All-American bowl. I hope that the relationship isn't over; we are just getting started."
For more than 17 years, Dennis Alexander has advocated for service. His father was a Marine, and he himself served time in the Marine Corp and the Peace Corps.
"I have always been an advocate for service, it's our country and it's the right thing to do," said Alexander who's a reserve police officer and a teacher at Seaside High School in Seaside, Calif.
He said his goal is to share with his community the depth and breadth of what the Army has to offer a student who chooses the military as an option. He said his biggest take-away from the Army All-American Bowl week was the fact that many students who would like to serve cannot qualify.
"Maybe that falls on us as educators. Perhaps we as a school district can look at ways to prepare students for ASVAB testing."
As an educator and peace officer, he believes it's hard to succeed at anything today without the concept of team, community and selfless service.
For Jeff Upton, Niles High School athletic director in Niles, Michigan, the take-away from AAB is build community partnerships and find ways to integrate the Army morals and values as life skills.
"I have respected the Army forever. I respect everything they do to protect our country," he said.
Upton's grandfathers and his father were Soldiers, which has made him a life-long advocate for Soldiers and the Army.
Upton got advice from Soldiers in San Antonio about what he should be telling his students about Army service.
"Now, I can go back and talk to our students about what to expect."
Many parents of high school athletes dream of college scholarships, but "there are a lot more scholarships provided through the Army than there are in football and basketball," said Upton. "That should be the opportunities those parents seek."
"I believe the Army is a phenomenal foundation," said John Hinzman, athletic director for East Ridge High School in Woodbury, Minnesota. "I respect what it stands for -- the morals, beliefs and character of a Soldier."
Hinzman said he initially planned to serve in the Army, but instead, opted to accept a basketball scholarship. The AAB gave him the opportunity to meet Soldiers and understand who they are and what they do. It reinforced what he knew and believed.
"I believe we should instill and re-instill in our children the integrity, high morals, standards and work ethic," said Hinzman. "The ethos of the Soldier -- not giving up, not quitting and standing by your fellow Soldier are truly ethics I want to live by for my family and community."
He said his goal is to share the knowledge he gained about the opportunities available to young men and women and break down the walls of preconceived notions about Army service.
"Now, I am able to tell them it's a great place to be," Hinzman said.
From education and training to elite technology and innovative leader development, the Army impressed the mayor of a northwest Ohio city of 37,000.
"The U.S. Army All-American Bowl was an extraordinary event," said Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer. "It is unique what the Army does with high school students, promoting them and bringing the whole weekend together."
Even though Schertzer has a brother-in-law who is a captain in the Army, he admits he didn't know much about serving. The trip helped him to feel more connected.
After learning that he and one of the recruiters he met in San Antonio graduated from the same high school, Schertzer made another connection to the Army.
"There are things we do as a community to promote work with our Army recruiters," said Schertzer.
One opportunity is during Marion's annual Popcorn Festival, when Schertzer hosts a ceremony to swear in all of the seniors who are on the way to basic training.
"I think our community has a good partnership with the Army," he said. "I hope to see civic leaders and educators in other communities reaching out."