FORT BENNING, Ga. (May 7, 2018) -- More than a dozen educators from several Midwest states and beyond visited Fort Benning's Capabilities Development and Integration Directorate to see some of the latest technologies and learn about the highly technical careers the Army offers April 26 at Fort Benning, Georgia.

The Recruiting Command Educators Tour, led by Col. Wayne Hertel, commander of U.S. Army 3rd Recruiting Brigade, included teachers and influencers from Tennessee, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

"One of the challenges for recruiters, especially in the upper Midwest, is that many young people know very little about the Army and the opportunities the Army provides," Hertel said.

Tours such as these are designed to support recruiting efforts and give educators a better understanding of the Army and inform them of career opportunities it offers.

The case for specialized careers in technologies was perhaps best made by Col. Greg Bell, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command capability manager for infantry brigade combat team. Surrounded by displays of unmanned aerial systems, new Soldier gear, and weapons systems, he talked about how technology is making the fighting force better, more lethal and safer. It's a continuous process, he explained, but technology is moving and changing quickly.

To keep up, today's Army requires people with high-tech skills, and often those skills are intuitive to young people.

"That's where the smart kids come in," Bell said. To illustrate his point, he held up a mini-drone: "If I give this to a Soldier and tell him it's for three things, once he starts playing with it, he'll figure out 12 more things he could do with it."

Recruiters know they are facing a tough challenge with the shrinking percentage of Americans, ages 17 to 24, who are eligible to serve in the Army. But Bell wants his audience to know that the Army is a competitive career option.

"We are technical, and we're moving into automation," he said. "We need people who can carry lots of weight and shoot, but we're more than that. We're moving into those areas you often don't associate with the Army."

Those areas include robotics and autonomous systems, which have led to growing partnerships with Georgia universities and schools. Not only are there opportunities for collaboration on technologies, but through these partnerships, students are better able to make informed decisions about the Army as a career path.

Steve Parrott, with the Illinois State Board of Education, was impressed by the display of technologies, and surprised to learn there are 150 different types of jobs and career opportunities in the Army. As a longtime career and technical educator, Parrott knows what influences students the most when choosing a career path.

"Students go into an occupation for a couple of different reasons," he said. "One, it's a family thing, or through a teacher."

By participating in Educator Tours and spending time with Soldiers and leaders, Hertel hopes that more teachers will become ambassadors for the Army.

"If they know a little about the education opportunities and about the training we provide these young men and women," Hertel said, "then they can help us as influencers, if it's right for that student."

For Parrott, the message is clear.

"We have to go back and educate the teachers and the counselors," he said, "and share what we've seen."