By Mitch Meador, Fort Sill TribuneMarch 28, 2019
FORT SILL, Okla. (March 28, 2019) -- The Harry S Truman Education Center on Fort Sill is now home to a Military Entrance Test (MET) site for the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion.
This will eliminate Lawton recruiters' weekly drives to Oklahoma City to take applicants to the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) for their Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) tests.
Lt. Col. John D. Garcia, commander of the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion, joined recruiters from the Lawton Recruiting Station in Central Mall here Monday in kicking off the new site. He presented Diana Ferguson, a guidance counselor at the Truman Education Center, with a plaque identifying one of its computer classrooms as an official site for ASVAB testing.
"This is huge for recruiting, for our students who want to come in here and be a part of the Army. This is a step in making that happen," Garcia said. "This means more Soldiers put in the Army."
The battalion commander said this was something Maj. Gen. Wilson A. Shoffner, commanding general of the Fires Center of Excellence and Fort Sill, wanted to see come about. Recruiting was a top concern for Shoffner when he addressed Lawton Chamber of Commerce members during his "State of Fort Sill" address on Dec. 13, 2018.
Sgt. 1st Class William Hill, station commander for the Lawton Recruiting Station, called the MET site "a huge asset."
"We've been bending over backwards to make this happen really quick. It happened a little quicker than we anticipated," Hill said.
The MET site saw its first usage shortly after the kickoff, as two applicants traveled to Fort Sill from Wichita Falls, Texas, to take their ASVAB tests Monday morning.
The classroom has 24 computer terminals, and Hill said he expects to see all the seats filled in the coming months. Army recruiters in Central Mall work for both the active Army and the Army Reserve, but the MET site will be for the use of all the recruiting offices inside the mall's south entrance, to include the Army and Air National Guard, the Navy, the Air Force, the Marine Corps, the Coast Guard, and all the areas a little bit south of Lawton that until now had to go to Oklahoma City to take the ASVAB tests.
Before the opening of this site, the Lawton Recruiting Station could only offer the practice test for ASVAB.
Having the MET site here means recruiters don't have to drive all the way to Oklahoma City to monitor the actual test. Being able to test locally will save almost 8-9 hours of a recruiter's time, Hill said.
"They can get back to work, prospecting, high school visits, building COIs (centers of influence), and then come back and pick up the tests as soon as they're complete, instead of driving all the way to Oklahoma City and then getting back home at 7:30, 8 o'clock at night," Hill said.
He said the ASVAB will be administered at the Truman Education Center on the second and fourth Mondays of every month. Previously, recruiters went to Oklahoma City every Wednesday, so this frees them up for two additional days a month.
"It buys us a lot more time to go do what we need to do, instead of driving and spending countless hours going to Oklahoma City and back," Hill said.
The reason the MET site is on Fort Sill rather than outside the gates is that Fort Sill had the facilities in place to meet recruiters' needs as far as the testing is concerned, he explained.
"It's a secure environment so we can bring our applicants over here. They can test with zero distractions, get their tests complete, and then we can come back and pick them up. It was just more convenient for us, for the Army, for what we have to do, to be able to use the testing facility on Fort Sill in the Truman Education Center," Hill said.
Garcia gave some extra reasons for having the MET site on Fort Sill: "One, they get to come on Fort Sill and see the families, see the different things the Army offers. Also, for our applicants, it's intimidating and tiring to drive two hours to Oklahoma City to go to the MEPS. So this is huge for them to come here in a relaxed environment and test well."
On each of the days when the ASVAB is offered, in-processing at the Truman Education Center will be from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Testing will begin at 10:30 a.m., and it typically takes from 2� to 3 hours for an applicant to complete the battery of tests.
"As far as the Army goes, there's over 152 jobs in the Army to choose from," Hill said. "Depending on the actual qualifications that they get on their ASVAB, there's 10 different categories or subtest scores that determines what they're qualified for. Sometimes they have to have certain classes in high school algebra and chemistry to qualify them for certain jobs.
"There's not necessarily a job that we are looking to fill. It kind of depends on what the applicant wants. If they're qualified for it, we'll do our best to get them the job. I've talked to a couple of different branches, and I know here on Fort Sill the ADA (Air Defense Artillery) and the Field Artillery are wanting us to recruit a little bit stronger for them due to end-strength numbers in the next three, four, five years.
So if the applicants are qualified and that's the job that they want, we do everything in our power to get them that job," Hill said.
The station commander said the Lawton Recruiting Station doesn't have a recruiting goal it's trying to meet.
"For us, we just go out and recruit and find as many people as possible who are interested in the Army, and then be able to get them the job that they want so that they can serve their country," he said.
The demographic they seek the most is high school graduates in the 17-24 age range, but they go up to the age of 35. For the active duty Army, applicants have to ship to basic training before their 35th birthday. For the Army Reserve, applicants have to join before their 35th birthday. Sometimes bonuses are available for certain jobs, but these come and go. Bonuses are allocated by the Department of Defense and Congress based on the needs of the Army, Hill noted.
The staff of the Lawton Recruiting Station is now up to 10. Overall, the Oklahoma City Recruiting Battalion has roughly 260 personnel covering all of Oklahoma and small portions of Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas, Hill said.
Diana Ferguson, guidance counselor at the Truman Education Center, and Mary Riley, test control officer for the Oklahoma City MEPS, said it was easy for them to coordinate the establishment of the MET site here because they knew the same acronyms and the test control officer language.
Following the initial call from Riley asking if there might be a way the Truman Education Center could help out, Ferguson talked to her boss, Education Services Director Mike Dodds, and he said, "Go with it."
"So we met with Mary and showed her the room, and she loved it. And from there it was off and running. About two months, to get it going," Ferguson said.