JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —
The U.S. Army kicked off its first nationwide virtual hiring campaign June 30 with a goal of recruiting 10,000 new Soldiers during a three-day period to serve in 150 different occupations.
Locally, Soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence, or MEDCoE, at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, learned all about the Army National Hiring Days from Army recruiters with the San Antonio Army Recruiting Battalion and senior MEDCoE and San Antonio community leaders during the MEDCoE Army National Hiring Days Soldier Forum.
Spread out through several sessions that adhere to COVID-19 countermeasures, the MEDCoE Army National Hiring Days Soldier Forum will reach nearly 600 soldiers.
But isn’t that like preaching to the choir?
Maj. Gen. Dennis LeMaster, MEDCoE commander, says no.
"These new soldiers, many who joined the Army less than six months ago are great message ambassadors and shining examples of how ordinary citizens can accomplish extraordinary things through service in the military," the general said.
LeMaster spoke to the Soldiers during the forum, "You all play a very important role in Army National Hiring Days. Everyone who wears a uniform is a recruiter. And what I am asking you to do is to reach back to your hometowns.
"The National Hiring Days are a big deal,” LeMaster said. “The Army set a target of 10,000 … 10,000 of our countrymen. And they are asking us to help out.”
LeMaster has been in command of the MEDCoE since January 2020 and is also the Chief of the Medical Service Corps. He described a chance encounter he had with a soldier in uniform at an airport when he was six years old that inspired him to serve. Even though LeMaster comes from a family legacy of service-members, he recalled that it was seeing this perfect stranger, a soldier in uniform at an airport during the height of the Vietnam War that made him say, “I want to be just like him.”
LeMaster said, “By his mere presence in uniform I knew he was involved in something really big and I wanted to be part of that.”
He asked the group to use ANHD as an excuse to reach back to their hometowns so that their friends and family realize how far each of them has come since high school because of their training so far in Basic Combat Training and Advanced Individual Training, or AIT.
“You in uniform, in your hometown, is a powerful message. Do not underestimate it,” LeMaster concluded.
The Army National Hiring Days is an all-Army effort to inspire individuals across the nation to join the less than one percent of Americans who pursue careers in the Army.
Due to the social distancing constraints of the Coronavirus Disease 2019, or COVID-19, Army recruiters have focused heavily on virtual communications rather than face to face recruiting events with the general public. MEDCoE soldiers, who have been in the so-called protective bubble of the training environment for several months, attended the hiring forum to learn about the initiative.
The soldiers were encouraged to share their own success stories with their family and friends through social media specifically during the hiring days, to expand the Army’s reach. The Army hopes that these inspiring, personal stories of service will encourage their connections into service of their own.
This call to serve is extended through both officer and enlisted career paths and full-time positions on active duty and part-time positions available in the U.S. Army Reserves or U.S. Army National Guard.
This new virtual hiring event is the first time the Army has come together as a whole to leverage the digital space in a concentrated all-Army nationwide recruiting effort.
Joseph Bray was appointed a Civilian to the Secretary of the Army, or CASA, in January of this year, and was the primary guest speaker during the forum. The Army’s CASAs are business and community leaders appointed by the Secretary of the Army to advise and support Army leaders across the country and is the civilian equivalent to a three-star general officer.
Bray is a Vietnam Veteran turned business leader in the San Antonio community. After the first session of the forum, he explained why he wanted to share his own personal stories of success with the trainees.
“I think it’s important to tell my Army story so that these young soldiers can at least relate to what it was like for me when I was their age,” Bray said.
Bray told the soldiers of his job as a forklift driver before he was drafted in April 1970. After Basic Training and AIT he served in the Vietnam War until he was discharged in December 1971.
After the war, Bray used the Army’s education benefit or “GI Bill” to attend college and later get a master’s degree. He spent 42 years in the financial services industry and credits the Army Values and his short time in the service with how successful he believes his adult life turned out to be.
“The Army was the best job I ever had,” Bray told the young Soldiers. “I can honestly say that I appreciate the Army more now, looking back, then I did at the time when I was your age.”
Bray ended his remarks at the end of each session by proclaiming, “My name is Spc. Joseph David Bray. I am a United States Army Veteran and Soldier for Life.”
Bray, who is also a member of the Fort Sam Houston Order of the Distinguished Quartermaster, explained that his gratitude to the Army is what makes him so motivated to help in their recruitment effort.
The Army has been sustained as an all-volunteer force since 1973, two years after Bray’s tour of duty ended. Since then, the force is regenerated by the less than one percent of Americans who volunteer to join. Bray says that energizing that spirit of service to the country is especially important because of the global pandemic.
“COVID-19 has slowed recruiting down,” Bray explained. “Colleges closed, high schools closed, and we had to temporarily close our recruiting stations.”
He described how recruiters are conducting virtual screenings of potential recruits and using social media to generate contact leads.
“The Army is having to learn how to recruit differently instead of just through recruiting centers and face to face contact,” Bray said.
As part of the three-day virtual hiring event, Army leaders, operational units, recruiters and community partners across America have focused on encouraging individuals to explore the Army’s career paths, ranging from traditional combat roles to support positions in logistics, healthcare and technology. They also highlighted the many benefits of military service, to include health insurance, retirement plans, training and education opportunities, and family support programs.
After the first session of the Army National Hiring Days MEDCoE Soldier Forum, Army Pvt. Meiling Durzinsky, who is in Advanced Individual Training at the MEDCoE to become a 68T animal care specialist, spoke about the event and her reason for serving.
Durzinksky enlisted in January of this year shortly after marrying her husband in November 2019. Her husband is currently a Soldier serving at Fort Bragg as a 14H Air Defense Enhanced Early Warning Systems Operator. Durzinsky’s husband encouraged her to pursue enlistment because he knew she had thought about it previously, though never took the leap to join.
“I’d say that I have had a really good experience. The Army has provided me with a lot of opportunities and it has taught me a lot already,” Durzinsky added. “I joined six months ago because I wanted to better myself and I wanted to build a strong foundation for my family and for my future.”
To become an enlisted Soldier in the U.S. Army, individuals must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident; be 17-34 years old; achieve a minimum score on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test; meet medical, moral and physical requirements; and be a high school graduate or equivalent.
“I think it is very important to reach out to people because if you don’t, you never know who wants to join and who is on the fence about it,” Durzinsky said. “I definitely think I will reach out to people back home; there is a nice $2,000 bonus if you get past all of the hoops there are to jump through when it comes to joining.”
During the Army National Hiring Days period, the Army is offering a $2,000 signing bonus. Qualified applicants are also eligible for bonuses up to $40,000 or student loan reimbursement up to $65,000, depending on the selected occupation, ASVAB scores, contract length, and timeline for shipping to basic training.
Recruiters from the San Antonio Army Recruiting Battalion also participated in the MEDCoE ANHD event and answered soldier questions about benefits and incentives. For more information about Army opportunities and to find a local recruiter, visit goarmy.com/hiringdays.