FORT KNOX, Ky. -- The Army is a viable career option for young men and women.
That is what U.S. Army Recruiting Command showed 25 education influencers, from across the U.S., during the National Educator Tour hosted at Fort Benning, Georgia, April 23-25.
The National Educator Tour brings senior-level educators, including superintendents, organizational vice presidents, and private industry presidents, from across the nation to visit an Army base and allow them to experience a day in the life of a Soldier.
"We're here to show you what we do, what our jobs are in the Army, the training and what we do to take care of Soldiers," Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, USAREC commanding general, told the guests.
Over three days, the education leaders received several information briefs on Army education, training and certification opportunities; observed Soldiers in action from a basic training graduation to a military working dog demonstration; talked with enlisted Soldiers, officers, and warrant officers; and got some hands-on experience with training simulators and Army facilities.
According to Larane Guthrie-Clarkson, education division chief for USAREC and tour coordinator, this is the fifth year USAREC has hosted the National Educator Tour, and the response from educators is always positive. Many educators are surprised by what they find.
About 50 percent of youth admit they know little to nothing about the military and fewer people have connections to family and friends who have served. In general, much of the information people have about the military comes from movies and television, which leads to misconceptions about military service.
"They don't realize that Army training has such high standards for their students that choose to join the Army," Guthrie-Clarkson said. "They get to learn that the Army is not just what they see on television shows, they get to see the new Army with the technology and the skills these students bring in just on their own."
The Army has 150 career opportunities, 50 of which are healthcare related and others include fields in science, technology, engineering and math. Additionally, 99 percent of Army careers have related civilian-sector credentials.
Even Adam Rogers, Oklahoma City Public Schools, who grew up with a parent in the Air Force, did not fully understand what the Army was before he attended the Educator Tour.
"Before I came, I was thinking the Army was just the front lines people, and now, being here, I can see that it is so much more," Rogers said.
Guthrie-Clarkson feels the most valuable aspect of the tour is the educators' ability to talk with the enlisted Soldiers.
"We give them an opportunity that is unscripted," Guthrie-Clarkson said. "They'll dine with the Soldiers and they can ask the one-on-one questions. They can ask the hard questions, 'Why did you join the Army? What are you getting out of the Army? Are you looking at this as a career or job skills?'"
These tours really help educators to understand how impactful the Army is in young men and women's lives and the value in considering military service as a career option. Esmerelda Silva, vice president of strategic initiatives and government relations/compliance for Trident University International, is one educator that really came to see the value in Army service.
"I actually told my 25-year-old son that he needs to enlist in the United States Army," Silva said. "As a parent, you want to raise your children to have a good life and be productive citizens in this world, and the opportunity to talk to the young men and women who have chosen this path really inspired me that I would like my own son to serve."
Silva said she will bring her experience and the information she received about the Army back to her community. She's going to reach out to her son's school and look at the school district to see how she can get them more involved in sharing these opportunities. She wants to find out from a state legislative requirement why recruiters don't have the right access and work with the community to make the change.
"Why aren't we letting our recruiters into our schools? Why aren't we telling our children about the options of joining the services and the career paths they could have here?" Silva said. "We owe it to them, college is not the only option."