Army program encourages high school students to graduate

The Army is a storied fighting force. It seeks the "best of the best" in pursuit of making itself better.

Recruitment is a complex task designed to create and maintain a modern volunteer military organization. It is a process that begins with community involvement, education outreach and volunteer prequalification; it ends with signed recruits, committed to serving their country.

"I love the Army, and I have been in it for 16 years, beginning as paratrooper and now as a company 1st sergeant for recruitment," said Paul Bula, who is assigned to the Henderson Army Recruiting Station. His pitch to young men and women who are interested is: "Come see us; learn what your options are."

Through the Army’s March 2 Success program, Bula said, "Local recruitment office personnel visit Las Vegas Valley high schools to offer Army support for general education."

March 2 Success is a program for the scholastically gifted as well as the challenged. Without any obligation to the military, the Army offers free help for high school students to prepare and practice SAT, LSAT and other measurement tests taken to qualify students for career employment or continuing education.

The goal is to help students graduate from high school, pursue career goals or go on to higher education, which may or may not include military service. With nearly a 50 percent dropout rate in the Las Vegas Valley, Army officials feel it is vital that this support be offered to the public.

Bula said he looks for "quality not quantity" when evaluating students who want to become candidates for the Army. School beyond the 12th grade is not for everyone, but the Army recognizes that graduation from high school is the single most important step in a student’s journey to adulthood. Without a high school diploma, military enlistment is practically impossible and private sector opportunities are limited.

Bula and his staff use community outreach and recruitment goals as a subject for conversation with high school counselors, students and their parents. "Contact is often initiated by counselors but preference is given to meeting with students and their parents, whenever possible," Bula said.

Both regular and reserve opportunities are outlined by Army recruitment offices, but Bula noted, "High school graduation is critically important if a student is interested in joining the service because many more applicants apply than are qualified to enter the Army.

"High school students need to educate themselves on their options," he added.

The more popular jobs in the Army are health care, special forces and military police. If a recruit wants a specific job in the military and he or she is qualified by aptitude and education, that person can join when there is an opening for the position.

"There is no favoritism in the military," Bula said. "A recruit is either qualified for a job or not. A recruit is not paid more or less in the military than any other qualified candidate."

He noted that every year people retire or leave the military before retirement. The maximum age for a candidate is 34 years with at least one day before a 35th birthday. The maximum allowed time in service is 30 years.

Bula broadly outlined an example of what can happen with candidates who want a particular job. They can wait until the job they want becomes available. If they are married and have more than two children, they will have to get a waiver. They must have a high school diploma or, in very rare cases, may be able to get a waiver with a GED. No paper mill degrees are accepted; schools without COPA (Council on Postsecondary Accreditation) are denied.

If a candidate wants a job in Army intelligence, he or she must have good credit and be able to pass an extensive security clearance investigation.

National recruitment goals for new military personnel are declining, according to Jeff Ross, chief of advertising and public affairs for the Army Recruiting Battalion in Salt Lake City. "(Army recruitment goals) dropped from 64,000 last year to 58,000 this year; reserve goals dropped from 19,320 to 16,320," he said.

This is partially due to the Army’s high retention rate. Ross believes cutbacks will be greater next year.

For more information on joining the Army, Sgt. Bula can be reached by email at Paul.Bulathsinghals@usarcc.army.mil or by phone at 702-837-1680.

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