Military Matters: Army Recruitment Strong In North Country
High school graduation season can be a peak season for Army recruiters.
"A lot of students don't know where they're going to go to after they actually walk across the stage and get their diploma, said Staff Sgt. Alfred Johnston, "so they start thinking about the military."
Although the Army recruiting station in Watertown shares a building with recruiters from all of the other military branches, the Army is most people's first choice.
Fort Drum has a lot to do with that.
"They see all kinds of Army people around," recruit Joseph Ray Peterson said.
"They probably ask questions, like I asked people at work that are in the Army, job opportunities, and how it is."
"In other areas of the country, recruiters are the only examples of the military that someone would have," Johnston said.
"We do quite well here," he said. "There's a very propensity to enlist here."
Still, it's up to the recruiters to make sure those who want to enlist are really Army strong.
Among other things, they have to pass a physical, an aptitude test and a background check.
Your basic law violation, okay, speeding tickets," Johnston said, "but anything more major than that we have to start doing reviews and possibly waivers."
With the Army moving ahead with plans to reduce the size of the active duty force by 80,000 soldiers, far fewer waivers are being accepted.
Last year, a little more than 10 percent of recruits joined the army with waivers, down from nearly 30 percent just a few years before..
"They still are available," Johnston said, "but the qualifications are getting more stringent because we are going to a leaner Army."
With no shortage of willing recruits, especially in the north country, the Army can afford to be a little picky.