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Army recruiters busy during holiday season

Army Reserve Drill Sergeant Staff Sgt. Michael Merritt questions a soldier in formation during Future Soldier Day at the Reserve Center in Asheville, N.C., Feb. 20, 2016.

BRIAN HAMILTON/U.S. ARMY

By DREW BROOKS | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: November 25, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Lt. Col. Daniel Mitchell has traveled across North Carolina in the more than five months since he took command of the Army's Raleigh Recruiting Battalion.

At the same time, hundreds of recruits from across the state have left their hometowns, bound for basic training and the beginnings of their careers as soldiers.

Mitchell and his network of recruiters in centers across the state are offering something special to those recruits, he said during a visit in Fayetteville last week.

"It's a fresh start," Mitchell said. "And it can transform their lives."

In the New Year, hundreds of new recruits are expected to start training. That makes the holidays one of the busiest recruiting seasons of the year.

It's a time when many are reevaluating their lives and what they want. And, Mitchell said, he hopes they'll consider the Army.

It's more than a way to serve the country, he said. It's a path for success.

Now, more than ever, the Army strives to prepare soldiers for careers out of uniform, Mitchell said.

"You're going to be able to support your family and have a career," he said. "Not just a job. A career the Army will help launch you into."

That wasn't the case when Mitchell joined the Army as an officer years ago.

"I was probably like much of America," he said. "I didn't grow up in a military town like Fayetteville."

Mitchell knew he wanted to go to college, he said. And he was interested in serving his country one day.

But he didn't put the two together until someone suggested that he look at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York.

"I fell in love," Mitchell said of the Army's university. "At its heart, service members have decided to serve a purpose greater than themselves."

The Raleigh Recruiting Battalion is one of the busiest recruiting units in the country. It covers most of North Carolina – more than 40,000 square miles from Charlotte to the Outer Banks.

And the state, in turn, is one of the largest recruiting pipelines in the nation. North Carolina is one of seven states – with California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, New York and Texas – that account for half of all new recruits into the Army.

But, Mitchell said, local recruiters can't rest. Past successes mean that when the nation needs more troops, it turns to North Carolina and Fayetteville, which sits in the shadow of nearby Fort Bragg.

The battalion has recruiting centers in Fayetteville, Spring Lake, Hope Mills, Sanford, Lumberton and Clinton.

"We have a larger mission this year than last," he said. "This is a time of year when it's very important for us to get out and meet recruits. This is a big time for it."

At a recent event in Rocky Mount, Mitchell said he spoke to a group of young men and women about the importance of good decisions and setting goals. He asked them about their goals, too.

"Everybody in that crowd wanted to go to college," he said.

But everyone there didn't know how to get there.

Mitchell said the Army could help them, paying for college through the GI Bill or even, he said, covering existing student loans to help clean the slate for future schooling.

"There's people that have student loans in the tens of thousands of dollars," he said. "They stayed a few semesters and incurred debt. Now they join the Army for that fresh start."

Mitchell said recruiters are more than just trying to put bodies in basic training formations.

"Recruiters are changing people's lives," he said.

The Army has tools to help show young people how to reach their dream careers, Mitchell said. Those tools can show them what degrees or certifications they would need and how they can get them – whether through the Army or not.

"I wish we had these when I was a kid," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said the Army provides support for future careers. There are more than 150 different Army jobs to choose from – from air traffic controller and graphic artist to musician and information technology.

Mitchell said recruiters are looking for young men and women who can meet the nations standards, mentally and physical, and who haven't disqualified themselves due to legal or moral reasons.

More importantly, though, he said the Army needs recruits who want to serve. "That want to be part of something bigger than themselves" in times of war or humanitarian disasters.

Quoting Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey, Mitchell said, "We need to recruit people who are capable of fighting and winning in our nation's wars."

To do that, he said, the Army is working to challenge misconceptions.

Not all soldiers are grunts in the infantry or tankers, Mitchell said.

Instead, the Army is becoming increasingly more technological. It's more computer driven. And it's constantly evolving.

For every combat arms job, there are 20 support jobs in the Army, Mitchell said.

"We're changing with the times," he said.

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