OP-ED: The future of the Army requires encouragement and support from the community

Photo: US Army / Alex Kirk Amen / MGN
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(U.S. Army) - “Thank you for your service,” are words I often hear while wearing my uniform in your community. I am grateful to hear those words, but what many people do not know is that I am the one who is thankful.

I am thankful for the camaraderie, the commitment made to me and my family, and the opportunity to dedicate every day of my service to the American people.

I am thankful for receiving cost-free healthcare, technical skills, educational opportunities, traveling the world and experiencing different cultures, and the opportunity to lead Soldiers in the Nation’s most trusted organization, the Army.

I am thankful to be part of history this week when the Army celebrates 244 years of dedicated service to our country. For generations, Soldiers answered the call of our Nation with honorable and professional service for the common good, which makes me proud to call myself a Soldier.

We both are responsible for encouraging and inspiring the next great generation of Soldiers to find their place in history, but our task is not easy. We face many challenges when searching for the right people to fill our ranks. Yes, we need combat Soldiers like the ones you see in movies, but we also need dog handlers, engineers, IT specialists, nurses, mechanics, graphic designers, firefighters, cooks, veterinarians and many other career paths.

Fifty percent of America’s youth admit to knowing little or nothing about the people who work daily to protect their liberty and freedom, the U.S. military. They do not know about the skills they can learn in one of the Army’s 150 different career paths. They do not know about the professional certifications and degrees that can be obtained during Army service. Nor do they know about the benefits our Soldiers receive that match and often surpass the benefits offered by civilian employers.

The Army’s investment in its Soldiers benefits everyone. Veterans are more likely to volunteer, vote and be involved in their communities. They have the discipline, leadership skills, maturity and work effort sought by private industries. Only 29 percent of today’s young people can meet our entry requirements, but we will continuously work to find the right people to fill our ranks. We will compete to retain our talent for the good of the Nation, but we need your help.

On June 14, the Army’s 244th birthday, Soldiers in your community will participate in a nationwide “Call to Service” campaign to create awareness about the 150 career opportunities and many benefits available during Army service. The campaign is the perfect time to reflect on the Army’s impact on our Nation and discuss ways today’s youth can contribute to the Army’s proud legacy for future generations.

As we do our service, I challenge you, the community, to do your service. Encourage and inspire the young men and women around you to answer the call and be part of something bigger than themselves. Steer a young person to your nearest recruiting station or goarmy.com. Listen to those who want to talk about their desire to serve in the military, and encourage them to explore the Army as a potential career path.

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Lt. Col. Erick J. Morales is a 19-year Army veteran with several deployments in support of humanitarian, peacekeeping and combat operations. The U.S. Army, Baton Rouge Recruiting Battalion is responsible for all Army recruiting in Louisiana, Mississippi and western Tennessee. Our 253 member field recruiting force is organized into eight recruiting companies with 45 recruiting stations, and we cover approximately 103,874 square miles of territory while searching for America’s best volunteers who will enable the Army to win in a complex world.

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