Military Enrollment Up in Down Economy

By Brian Thompson
|  Wednesday, Aug 4, 2010  |  Updated 9:19 PM EDT
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Steady Paycheck, Tuition Making Military Service Attractive

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Steady Paycheck, Tuition Making Military Service Attractive

In this tough economy where millions are out of work, many have decided to be all that they can be.New Jersey Reporter Brian Thompson spoke to those enlisting in the military in the search for a steady paycheck.
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Credit the sour economy and sky high college tuition, along with a heavy dose of patriotism: The U.S. military, including the national guards, is easily meeting their recruiting numbers so far this year.

And that means recruiters can be more selective.

"The bar has been raised" on the quality of recruits, according to Lt. Col. John Sheard, 45 of the New Jersey Army National Guard.

 "I'm gonna become the Army's next new soldier," said Zorangelys Alvarado, 18 and a recent graduate of Hopatcong High School in Jefferson, N.J. at an Army National Guard recruiting office in Paterson.

On average, 20 prospective recruits a day enter the Paterson recruiting office, which will take maybe 36 by the end of the year, officials said.

"Everybody is looking to get their college paid for," said Sgt. 1st Class Manny Vazquez,46, who has been recruiting for most of his 27 years in the Guard.

Aileen Niver, 20 of Bloomfield, N.J. is one of them. She attends Seton Hall University in part to get ahead, and also to avoid the current job market.

"I know a lot of students that are recently graduated and actually don't have jobs and they have $30 thousand to $40 thousand debt(tuition) to deal with," Niver said.

Niver hopes to get a law degree after finishing her National Guard commitment.

In all, the New Jersey National Guard is looking to replace about 900 retiring soldiers a year but that's down from just a few years ago, according to Lt. Col. Sheard.

"Our focus has been on retraining," he added, which allows his recruiters to "raise the bar" even higher among those who are recruited.

But, while free college tuition and an ailing economy may drive many, old-fashioned patriotism is still in style.

That includes Christian Briones, 19 and a recent graduate from Paterson Charter School.

The Peruvian-born Briones has resident status but has lived in the United States just three years.

Nonetheless, he is trying to join up because he sees it as a "great opportunity to serve this country because this country game me a lot of opportunity, education."

Follow Brian Thompson on Twitter @brian4NY

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