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Recession boosts recruiting

Enlistment numbers are on the way up at local and regional centers

Posted: November 19, 2009 9:53 p.m.
Updated: November 20, 2009 4:55 a.m.

U.S. Army recruiter Staff Sergeant Matthew Forness talks with a potential recruit at the local office in Santa Clarita on Wednesday.

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Four new U.S. Army recruits stood side-by-side in the Santa Clarita recruiting office on Thursday, eyes aimed straight ahead, hands tucked behind their backs.

In the storefront office on Soledad Canyon Road, a sergeant drilled them on march commands, quizzed them on terminology and tested them on military time - all preparation before they're shipped off to boot camp.

The young men, ages 17 to 20, are part of a new wave of recruits who have helped boost enlistment numbers at the Santa Clarita office and in the Los Angeles area over the past year.

The number of men and women enlisting in the U.S. Army increased by 11 percent in the last fiscal year, contributing to the highest levels of Army recruitment in the Los Angeles area since 2003, according to a U.S. Army statement released earlier this week.

Recruiting leaders say educational opportunities in a poor economy coupled with new outreach tactics are likely causes of the increase.

The U.S. Army recruiting office on Soledad Canyon Road, decorated with "Army Strong" posters and cardboard cutouts of soldiers, enlisted 89 people in the fiscal year ending Sept. 31, the statement said.

That is a jump from 80 people enlisting during the previous fiscal year.

In all, the Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion, which includes Los Angeles County and eastern Ventura County, jumped 35 percent with 2,313 people enlisting in the last fiscal year compared to 1,712 the year before, the Army statement said.

With that jump, the Los Angeles-area battalion exceeded its recruitment goal by about 6 percent, said battalion commander Lt. Col. Somport Jongwatana.

"(People) want to get in the Army to prepare themselves for when the economy turns in the next couple of years," Jongwatana said, adding that Army recruits can choose from more than 170 jobs in the service. "They can have the skill sets and the job qualifications under their belt."

New recruits can also receive other benefits, such as college funding from the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

Valencia resident Kirk Evanoff, 20, said the scarce job market was one major reason he joined the Army in August.

"It doesn't help (that) the economy's in recession," Evanoff said, adding that he will switch from his job at an auto parts shop to an Army position as a visual information equipment operator.

"I'm kind of guaranteed a job right now."

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