Army veteran helps recruiting efforts in Lafayette

By Jennifer VillaumeApril 12, 2023

Ben Iles (right), Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Operations Group Physical Security team, and Staff Sgt. Randy Borgesi, U.S. Army Recruiting station DeRidder speaks with Navy ROTC cadets from Memorial High School, Port Arthur, Texas and Port Arthur Army recruiter Sgt. First Class Luis Zuniga at the Fort Polk Museum during a tour of JRTC Fort Polk.
Ben Iles (right), Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Operations Group Physical Security team, and Staff Sgt. Randy Borgesi, U.S. Army Recruiting station DeRidder speaks with Navy ROTC cadets from Memorial High School, Port Arthur, Texas and Port Arthur Army recruiter Sgt. First Class Luis Zuniga at the Fort Polk Museum during a tour of JRTC Fort Polk. (Photo Credit: Keith Houin) VIEW ORIGINAL

BATON ROUGE, La. — Ben Iles is a retired Army officer currently working as a civilian for the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk Operations Group Physical Security team.
Iles went back to his Soldier roots and stepped up to assist when the Army began publishing its recruiting struggles and needed support.
Iles demonstrated his patriotism and desire to help by sharing his own Army story highlighting the benefits to himself, his family and his country.
“I enlisted in the Army in 1982 at the age of 18. The Army lifted me from poverty, educated me and introduced me to a rich and diverse population. I also learned that if I applied myself, I could not only succeed, but also make a difference in the lives of others,” Iles said. “When I had nine years in service I applied for and was accepted to Officer Candidate School. I served my country for almost 25 years.” 
Iles saw Gen. Gary Brito, Training and Doctrine commanding general, on television talking about the recruitment issues facing the Army. Iles happened to know Brito as his tactical officer at Officer Candidate School, so he emailed him.
“I suggested that we retired Soldiers be allowed to assist recruitment efforts in the communities where we live. I have lived in the Fort Polk community since 2005. I am a member of the Lions Club, serve as a deacon in my church, am very active in the community and know many others who do the same,” Iles said. “I felt as though I could help with recruitment efforts locally. Gen. Brito agreed and sent my email to the commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis. Davis and I just happened to have served as majors together in Iraq in 2006. He forwarded my email to Lt. Col. Marsh, the local battalion commander. Marsh just happened to have been an observer/controller/trainer at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, and we knew each other. It seemed like a great plan was coming together before our very eyes.”
Marsh put the Lafayette command team in touch with Iles soon after. Staff Sgt. Randy Borgesi, DeRidder Recruiting Station, arranged for Iles to speak with juniors and seniors at Anacoco High School. The school principal agreed, and a date was set for March.
Iles entered the auditorium singing a military cadence, explaining that the Army uses these cadences when marching and running.
“At the start of the discussion approximately two individuals raised their hands as interested in service, but by the end more than half the audience raised their hands and said they were now interested,” said Capt. Kevin Finerty, Lafayette recruiting company commander.
Since that presentation, Anacoco High School has specifically requested Iles for future events with juniors and seniors and their parents or influencers to further discuss opportunities and benefits for their future.
“Mr. Iles was successful in helping us represent the United States Army and U.S. Army Recruiting Command. He is passionate about the military, and we are very grateful that he is willing to work with us to help in our recruiting efforts,” Borgesi said. “We are lucky to have people in our community who are willing to help talk to students and are passionate about the Army.”
Community partners and veterans can tell their stories with a unique perspective and experience to lend a hand to local recruiters and help them achieve the mission.
“He really has a unique Army story and can help provide invaluable feedback to our recruiters,” Finerty said. “He is helping rebound our DeRidder station, and infuse new and different energy in the schools.”
As for the future, Iles said he and other Veterans would love to step up and help the effort. Perhaps even having retired Soldiers assist in the stations as a Department of the Army civilian.
“The successes that I have enjoyed are a direct result of applying myself through the many opportunities that I received from the Army,” Iles said. “It’s hard to deny retired Soldiers can and are willing to assist in this worthwhile effort. The very defense of our nation and its way of life is dependent on recruiting efforts and the steady replacement of our greatest resource — America’s youth.”