According to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, challenges exist as the Army looks to meet its FY 2022 recruiting goal. Record job vacancies in the private sector, combined with a disconnect from mainstream society as less than one percent of citizens currently serve, along with an unprecedented coronavirus pandemic, have created the “most challenging labor market since the inception of the all-volunteer force.”
Team Bliss looked to help close that gap, which an August Stars and Stripes article said could equal a 45 percent dip in the FY 22 recruiting goal, by sharing the benefits of Army life with the public during their first-of-its-kind Meet Your Army expo at Fort Bliss, Texas, Aug. 26, 2022.
Soldiers and civilians from across the installation, to include the 1st Armored Division, the 32nd Army Air and Missile Defense Command and their 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, the 93rd Military Police Battalion, and many others rolled into West Bliss at the 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss Museum and brought a wide variety of hardware with them to share with guests during the expo.
“This is a great opportunity to get the West Texas, El Paso, and southern New Mexico communities into Fort Bliss so they can see what the day in the life of an Army Soldier is like,” said Maj. Gen James Isenhower III, the 1st AD and Fort Bliss commanding general, who assumed the position in July.
“We’re introducing them to different types of Soldiers with different Military Occupational Specialties. We’re also giving them the chance to touch and see some of the equipment – some of the signature pieces that characterize the capabilities of our Army. It’s an opportunity for the civilian community to understand the opportunity the Army and the military-at-large represents.”
Indoors, the museum was transformed into Soldier central as many 1st AD and 32nd AAMDC Soldiers were joined by U.S. Army Garrison Fort Bliss troops, as well as many others from tenant units and ancillary partners of Team Bliss, like the University of Texas at El Paso Fighting Miner ROTC program.
Outside, 11th ADA “Imperial” air defenders blocked out the sun with their PATRIOT and M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System launching stations. Soldiers from the 591st Military Police Company and their fellow 93rd MP Bn. “War Eagle” Soldiers, along with their military working dogs, demonstrated some of their moves while they chatted with guests and dressed them in the same, real-life body armor they wear on patrol.
Civilians from the Fort Bliss Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation were also on hand with a climbing wall, information on their many services at Bliss, and swag for guests. The 1st AD Band’s rock band, Iron Will, braved the summer blacktop and performed, while other Army musicians also manned a booth inside of the museum to talk to guests interested in their field.
Open to the public, guests unaffiliated with the military were welcomed through a nearby gate during the day of the event and were streamlined to the museum, while others with one-year recreational access could also access the installation via several gates.
Dylan Valenzuela, a high school Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps student from nearby Andress High School in El Paso, was one of many teens who turned their Friday into a field day as they came onto the installation and spent the day mixing in with Soldiers, many of whom were only a few years removed from high school themselves.
“My school and I are here to get a taste for what the U.S. Army is about,” he said. “I’ve learned about a few of the programs – Airborne, Special Forces – things I didn’t know about. I’ve also picked up some history and some background on some of the vehicles at the museum. I love history, so seeing all of this, I’m kind of geeking out.”
As Sgt. Demario Miller and troops from 11th ADA Bde. conducted tours of their stations, they too were geeking out to meet guests like Valenzuela and get the chance to share their experiences with them. Miller said he remembered the impression drill sergeants made on him as a JROTC visitor to Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., now more than a decade ago.
“[Visiting Parris Island] was a good opportunity for me to see how the real military worked compared to what we had seen in the movies and stuff like that,” said Miller. “The drill instructors told us about what it means to be in the service – not about serving in the Marines or the Army, but serving your country, and that made me look at things from a different perspective. It’s about helping people and building alliances — that’s been my experience in the military so far.”
Like Miller, Isenhower, the senior mission commander at Bliss, said he too was called to the military by the examples he saw in others in uniform. He hoped that encouraging spirit was alive during the Meet Your Army expo at Fort Bliss, Texas, Aug, 26.
“In my teenage years, I found inspiration in many of the men and women who were serving with my father,” Isenhower said, “and that inspired me to try and be like them and emulate the standard that they presented to me. I was impressed by their dedication – I was impressed by their professionalism, and it’s events like this that may similarly inspire future Soldiers to do the same thing.
“Our service takes care of its own and sets an example based on the distinct qualities and values that we find to be critical for our profession,” he said. “We want the local community to understand what an incredible opportunity service to our nation in the United States Army is about.”
To learn more about one of the Department of Defense’s premier Power Projection Platforms, Fort Bliss, Texas, visit home.army.mil/bliss.