What do a Minnesota state senator, a North Carolina superintendent, an assistant vice provost of the University of Texas San Antonio, and an Alabama Department of Education administrator have in common?They were among the 16 national-level Centers Of Influence (COI) attending U.S. Army Recruiting Command's (USAREC) first National Educator Tour at Fort Hood June 16-18.Seeing firsthand how the Army turns young men and women into Soldiers, learning about Army education programs with funded college courses, and how military occupations prepare Soldiers for good jobs in the civilian sector, contribute to these 16 professionals becoming advocates, or COIs, for Army service."What we gave them was an experience they can take back that they actually believe in because they have experience in something now that they never experienced before," said Brig. Gen. Troy Kok, deputy commanding general of USAREC and host for the tour. "We changed their perspective over what the Army was all about."I asked three of the educators, before they came here would you have recommended your child join the Army, and they said, 'Absolutely not.' Now that you've been here for the last two days, what would you say? They said, 'Absolutely, the Army offers young men and women so much, we never knew.' That was what made the whole thing worthwhile to me, to see that conversion."The 16 COIs listened to briefings about college tuition assistance and taking college classes on post, talked with Darnall Army Medical Hospital personnel about training for careers in Army medicine, and to Soldiers about how they pursued a post-secondary education while serving.
Simulators let them experience what it feels like to fly an Apache helicopter, patrol in a HMMWV, and drive an M1 tank. A briefing on the Air Assault course provided insight on how math and physics assist in preparing slingloads.
"We want to let them see that recruiters are not trying to pull students out of schools, that recruiters are actually working to keep the kids in school, and that the Army has the resources to keep kids in school with programs such as March2Success," said Larane Guthrie Clarkson, an education service specialist with USAREC's G-7/9.Bob Schneider, associate executive director and chief operating officer for the New York State School Boards Association, was surprised to learn Soldiers have to apply math and physics and memorize a tremendous amount of data in order to pass the Air Assault course."This [tour] gives me a better idea of what goes on in the modern Army," he said. "I think a lot of people know you can get a college degree in the Army but don't realize there's so many other jobs that support the infantry out in the field … things that involve … a lot of it is science technology, engineering and math."We have a newspaper and we can write articles about career opportunities in the Army and get more awareness out to school boards. We also have a video news segment. There could be some story we could do in the future where maybe we could do like three minute segment] about the Army every two weeks."Dr. Vanessa Kenon, assistant vice provost for IT, University of Texas San Antonio, said, "the Army's technology is cutting edge. I work with students at all levels, and this gives me the opportunity to go back and say there are some great options for you in the U.S. Army - STEM related fields. It's a great opportunity to get and education and not leave college with a lot of student loan debt."Often invited to speak to students about pursuing careers, Minnesota State Senator Patricia Torres Ray notices more kids asking about military careers."I found I didn't have enough information about what options exist for them," she said. So I'm excited about being here and being able to learn more so that I can speak more knowledgeable about the options they can pursue.""I was really shocked, the Army does just about almost any career," said Ed Woods, director of Mid-Willamette Education Consortium in Salem, Oregon, upon learning of the 143 military occupational specialties available for enlistment."I'm looking to add some resources to our website, and meeting with Tom Thompson with the Oregon Department of Education on looking at how we can provide the resources and information to students, teachers, and counselors, really to get the word out about Army opportunities and education," he said.The president-elect of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, Mike Allison, was aware of the Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, but didn't colleges work with Soldiers to earn degrees, regardless of PCSs and deployments.
"I'll go back and talk to the recruiters about where they're struggling and make personal phone calls to principals about how the recruiters' mission can enhance what we're trying to do in our schools," he said. "An Army brigade commander once told me 'don't ask what you can do for the recruiter ask the recruiter what he can do for you.'""That really has been a valuable piece of advice for me as a principal because [the recruiters have] shown me so many different ways they can help students in our schools. [They bring] in mobile simulators, having soldiers participate with our physical education classes, work with us on the ASVAB program, and mentoring."