Kendrick Cooper will never forget the nine months he spent stationed near Balad, Iraq.
Sgt. Kendrick Cooper worked at the Army Recruiting station in Martinez while on leave from duty in Iraq.
Photo by Jim Blaylock
His battalion was responsible for keeping insurgents under control. That duty included finding and deactivating Improvised Explosive Devices, or home-cooked mines.
"Every day, at least two convoys of troops were hit with IEDs ... in a four to five mile radius," he said.
It was Cooper's battalion that finally caught the leader of those insurgents, he said.
Since returning from Iraq in December, Cooper has been stationed at the Evans recruitment office, on Columbia Road near Belair Road. He said he wanted to help persuade others to enlist because he believes in the mission he participated in.
One difficulty Cooper endured while overseas was his unpredictable schedule.
"Missions just came out of the blue,'' he said. "We'd hear gunfire and we'd go find out where it was coming from. Maybe some Iraqi police had been killed. Sometimes we'd catch (those responsible). Sometimes we didn't."
Though he was without a set agenda, Cooper was always busy.
"We got little sleep. It was hot. We did a lot of walking."
He has been in the Army for three years and spent almost half of that time overseas.
"I had just got married a couple of months before I was sent to Iraq. I actually got married in Korea because I was stationed there at the time. So, in the past year and a half, I've had very little family time." Cooper also has a 2-year-old son.
His stay at the Evans recruitment office is a special assignment, lasting two weeks. It ended Dec. 24.
Cooper was not alone at the office: Several other Army recruiters staff the office or go out for face-to-face prospecting. Sgt. Larry Sarmiento, who has been in the Army for eight years serving with the Signal Corps, is one of them. He said there is an art to what he does as a recruiter.
"If you pay attention to what I'm wearing as opposed to looking away, then I assume you may at least be willing to carry on a conversation," he said.
Even though the Evans recruitment office covers five counties, they have had trouble meeting their 2004 quota of 19 enlisted privates and 16 recruits for the reserves. They've fallen short, with 11 enlisted and six in the reserves.
"We had about 30 appointments last month, but only four of those enlisted in the Army," Sarmiento said, adding that he thinks the problem is one of perspective.
"There doesn't seem to be as much support now as there has been in the past," he said. "People see the military as part of the Bush administration."
Sarmiento admitted that there are many considerations involved in deciding whether or not to enlist.
"We do get a lot of interest, but most people are not willing to make the sacrifice," he said.
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