Editor's note: The Columbia County News-Times continues its four-part series in today's edition with its third piece examining the war in Iraq and how Columbia County is responding more than three years after the war began.
Jillisa Tutt is the first to concede that her friends aren't interested in the U.S. Army Reserve, but standing in the Greenbrier High School lunchroom, the 18-year-old senior said a future in the Reserve is something she's looking forward to becauseit will have her "meeting new people and going new places."
"For me, it's the best way for me to be independent and be on my own,'' Tutt said.
Tutt, who will be stationed at Fort Gordon after going through basic training and advanced individual training, is just one of dozens in Columbia County who have recently signed up for military service.
Sgt. 1st Class Donald Ross, a recruiter for the Martinez-Evans area who signs up new members either to the Reserve or to active duty, said he always receives a warm welcome from students when he visits the two Columbia County high schools to which he is assigned - Evans and Greenbrier.
"They always take the stickers. That's good,'' he said as several Greenbrier High students picked up Army decals Monday while passing by a recruiting table that Ross had set up in the school's lunchroom. "I get a very good reception from the students.''
Ross said he typically visits the two high schools once a week.
"It's a pretty good area,'' he said of the area's recruiting numbers.
According to figures from the Army's Augusta Company, which includes recruiting offices in Augusta, Evans and North Augusta, Aiken, Orangeburg and Greenwood, S.C., recruiting numbers for active-duty members at the Evans office have stayed mostly unchanged since the start of the Iraq war. There were 77 recruits in fiscal year 2004, which started in October 2003; 77 in fiscal 2005; and 53 this fiscal year through April.
Reserve members recruited through the Evans office have declined since October 2003, with 52 in fiscal year 2004, 37 in fiscal year 2005 and 27 so far this year through April.
During that same time frame, however, the 116 recruited into the Reserve through the Evans office exactly matches the three-year goal total that the Army had set for recruiting reserves, according to Augusta Company statistics.
Meanwhile, the number of those recruited to active duty through the Evans office has been higher than the goal set for each year.
Since October 2003, there have been 207 people recruited into active duty service by the Evans office, which oversees all of Columbia County. That's 30 more than the Army had projected.
Overall, since October 2003, all of the Augusta Company's offices combined have recruited 1,057 active duty members and 371 reserves. Putting that into perspective, that means about 20 percent of the Augusta Company's active duty recruits came from the Evans office while nearly a third of its Reserve recruits came from the Evans office as well.
"Our Augusta Company as a whole does very well,'' said Leslie Ann Sully, a spokeswoman for the Army's Columbia recruiting battalion.
The job of recruiting
Ross said his job as a recruiter is one he enjoys. He said he's been in the Army for about eight years, but has been a recruiter since September.
"The thing I enjoy about recruiting is talking to the students,'' he said. "If I can maybe guide them in an area that's going to help them, then that's what I want to do ... This is basically just to give them different alternatives for them to be successful.''
Ross said those who speak with him most often ask about one key area.
"They have a lot of questions about basic training,'' he said.
Ross said that when it comes to new recruits, the majority come from outside visits to areas such as high schools, but some people walk in at the Evans recruiting office at Belair and Columbia roads to ask questions and sign up.
He said one selling point for the Army is that new recruits can choose when they want their basic training to start and can choose the job they will have in the Army.
Reserve recruits, he said, are required to serve one weekend each month.
A past generation
Two of Ross' more recent recruits, including Tutt, were women, but at one time, female recruits weren't such a common thing.
"I was in the first group to arrive at Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., for basic training,'' said Garnet Brickey, of Grovetown, who entered the Army shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II. "We took over men's barracks, barracks that had been used by men, and they were really rough ... They (the Army) were a little slow to accept women. We were auxiliary when I first enlisted and after about seven months they accepted us into the regular Army.''
For Brickey, the reason to sign up for military service was obvious.
"Well, it was just I was amazed at the fact that the Japanese bombed us, attacked us, so I just decided I wanted to help out,'' she said. "I wanted to do my part.''
Brickey said she mostly remembers Pearl Harbor for how people responded to it, adding that many people enlisted in the Army.
"They (Americans) were very angry,'' she said. "There was a shop next door to me and the owner of the shop got a barrel and broke every dish made in Japan. I heard him out there breaking dishes.''
Brickey said her job in the Army was to help out back in the United States by transporting officers and picking up injured soldiers who had returned from the battlefield.
These days, Brickey said, the world is much different, saying the war in Iraq doesn't have similarities to how the U.S. got involved in World War II.
"I don't think we have any business going into Iraq,'' she said. "If he (Saddam Hussein) had planned and been behind this attack on 9-11, it would have been different, but he wasn't really. He wasn't a nice man. He was a bad man, but he did not attack us and I don't think we should have stuck our nose in his business. I think it's altogether different.''
That said, if given the chance again to serve her country, Brickey said that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, she likely would have enlisted in the Army just as she did after Pearl Harbor.
"I guess so,'' she said. "I would have done my part.''
For more information about the Reserve or active duty service in the Army, call Ross at (877) 262-0392.
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