Beacon News: Economy spikes rise in military enlistment

This article first appeared in The Beacon student newspaper on March 3, 2009.

By Katie Schnack

Military recruitment rates are up and some think the increase is due to the unstable economy.  With a 7.6 percent national unemployment rate, the highest rate in decades, more and more people are turning to the military for job security and financial assistance.

According to the Department of Defense, all United States military services and reserve components met or exceeded their recruitment needs for January 2009. The Marine Corps Reserve surpassed its goal of 567 enlistees by 55 percent.

Sergeant Ben Carmen, a local National Guard recruitment officer, acknowledges the ties between the economy and the recent jump in military enrollment rates.

“I’ve had people say the economy is a motivator,” Carmen said. “It’s a secure job.  Job security is a big deal. People are getting laid off.”

The increase in enlistment rate has not only brought more names to roster lists but has also allotted military personnel the luxury of competitive entrance. Since many people are trying to get into the       military, recruiters can now focus on quality instead of quantity when selecting who is  admitted, Carmen said.

“We get tons of people coming into my office or calling, so recruitment isn’t an issue any more; it’s qualification,” Carmen said.

As the new Reserve Officers’ Training Corps kicks off its first year at Palm Beach Atlantic University, students enrolled are committed to eight years of military service after university graduation in exchange for free tuition and other financial perks.

Freshman Walter Reichard is someone who fell victim to the economy, and turned to the ROTC program for financial help. Reichard was working in real estate and mortgages when the banks began to fail. Reichard was stuck in an economic environment where no one was approved for loans anymore and since Reichard received paychecks based on commission, his income was starting to dwindle.

“The only reason I came back to school was because of a failing economy and I found a way around it,” Reichard said.

Reichard decided that to help pay for his undergrad pre-pharmacy costs and expensive pharmacy graduate school costs, he would join the ROTC program offered at PBA.

The program provides its students with extensive financial assistance while in school and job security upon graduation.

Upon enrollment in the ROTC program, students are awarded a $100,000 scholarship that can be used during their four years of college. Students also are given $1,200 per year for books and are even paid a monthly stipend of $300 as a freshmen and up to $500 once a student reaches senior status. Finally, upon graduation, all ROTC program students are guaranteed a job that pays $46,000 a year. Considering current unemployment records, this guarantee is welcomed at a very opportune moment.

“One can study to their fullest potential, knowing that when they get out of school they won’t have to fight to get into a good job,” Reichard said. “Me personally, I don’t have a problem defending my country if it means they will help me advance my studies and become a productive member of society.”

However, students should consider that although the ROTC program offers financial security, it is still not for everyone.

“It has to be something you are passionate and excited about, it also really helps if your parents support you as well,” said Rich Gaus, a PBA admission counselor who works with the ROTC program.

If students want to be involved in the ROTC program, they can contact Gaus in the admissions office at 561-803-2111.

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