Sunday, March 21, 2004

War boosts Guard recruits

By Emily Hagedorn
Enquirer contributor

WALTON - The war in Iraq has increased Kentucky National Guard recruitment, an official said.

"Many feel it's just something they need to do," said Sgt. 1st Class Tim Earls, a recruiting and retention officer based in Walton.

Out of 6,300 positions in the Kentucky Guard, about 6,200 are filled, and the state's recruitment has until Sept. 31 to fill the rest, Earls said.

Last month, 132 people were enlisted by the state recruiters.

"If you can't put in another 100, then there's something wrong," he said.

Nationally, recruitment in the National Guard has dwindled since a spike after Sept. 11, 2001, the Associated Press reported.

Earls is not sure why Kentucky is different.

He knows a lot of recruits value the benefits, which include a full college scholarship. But they understand they could see active duty. "You can't do it to receive the benefits and give nothing back," Earls said.

For Earls, recruitment of women is also up. He estimated he has recruited about 10 women over the last six months. A recruiter's quota is usually two or three people a month, he said.

"You sit and talk to them, and they just want to do something different," Earls said.

Sgt. 1st Class Travis Theis, who recruits in Carrolton and Walton, agrees the numbers are up but they also fluctuate regularly. "You'll have a lot of people in college, who want to get in for the benefits," he said. But patriotism is a big factor as well.

Metropolitan areas like Northern Kentucky, Lexington and Louisville don't have the same draw, Earls said, possibly because "there's a lot more for kids to do" in urban areas.

Both recruiters point out the Kentucky Guard can be called upon by the governor to help at disaster sites as well as events such as the WEBN fireworks, the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Speedway races.

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