Iowa is one of five states chosen nationwide for a new recruiting program to help sign up soldiers for the Army National Guard. General Mark Zirkelbach says the Iowa Guard ranked first in the nation last year in strength readiness, and went beyond its goal for signing up new recruits. But Zirkelbach says since 9-11 and the war on terror — the job has gotten tougher. He says to get an enlistment today they have to talk to many more Iowans, and the recruiters run out of time. So the National Guard Bureau has initiated what he calls a “strategic initiative” to change the way they recruit.
The new program is called “Guard Recruiter Assistance Program” (G-RAP) and it pays guardmembers who enroll get a two-thousand dollar bonus for signing up recruits. Zirkelbach says the method uses a financial incentive with the traditional soldiers to have them talk to people about their experiences being deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, on peacekeeping missions. He says, “Basically making what I’d call a sale.”
Zirkelbach says they’ve increased the number of recruiters and still they don’t have the time to do what they need. He says, “There are many Iowans that we have not talked to, in the colleges, in the universities in the community colleges. There are underrepresented groups, gender, cultural that we simply don’t have. And this will be an opportunity to now enter into those markets.” Zirkelbach says soldiers sign with the Iowa Guard to take advantage of things offered for self-improvement — like college scholarship money.
Zirkelbach says, “Once a person becomes a soldier — then it becomes a selfless interest. An interest to serve the community. To serve one’s country. To go Mississippi and Louisiana and help out. To go to Iraq or Afghanistan and make the world different. To make the world different. To remove a tyrannical dictatorship and offer democracy to a people.”
Zirkelbach was asked if this is hoped to become a new way of recruiting guardmembers for all states. He says he thinks that’s and accurate statement as he says this is what he calls a “strategic shift.” Once the soldiers in the program get someone to sign up, they’re turned over to the regular recruiters to finish the job. Candice
Buchanan is a 17-year-old senior at Boone High School is in the Iowa Guard and has signed up for G-RAP. She says, “I love what I do and I’d like to share those experiences with other people.” Buchanan says she had already recruited three people to the guard before the program. She’s now working on signing up another with a bonus on the line. Buchanan says she uses mutual interests to talk with people about the guard. She says she usually talks with them about what they’re interested in. Buchanan says she doesn’t try to recruit other kids at school, but does at other events.
Zirkelbach says guardmembers don’t recruit in their uniforms and are encouraged to not recruit people at work so it does not create any problems with employers. The other states taking part in the new program are Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky and North Dakota.