CAMP WILLIAMS, Utah –
Educators from Salt Lake and Utah Counties were given the chance to fly high on a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter with members of the Utah National Guard’s 2nd General Support Aviation Battalion, 211th Aviation Regiment; and Recruiting and Retention Battalion, as part of a Centers of Influence event at Camp Williams, Utah, March 16, 2023.
High School principals, counselors, teachers, administrators, and others attended the event to become familiar with the opportunities, scholarships, and resources the Utah National Guard offers. The educators were given an overview of some of the Guard’s capabilities and things the Guard can provide in addition to what can be provided by their communities.
“I’m excited to learn all of the details so I can make sure that my students know all of their opportunities,” said Sara Pouha, lead counselor at Taylorville High School. “Just last week I was walking through, and they (UTNG Recruiters) had pull-up competitions going on and they had a huge crowd gathered around. So that draws attention, and then [the recruiters] can share some of the activities that our students might not know about.”
Army Undersecretary Gabe O. Camarillo told senators this week that research shows that most of today's young adults are unaware of what it means to serve in the military, with 75 percent possessing little-to-no knowledge about the service.
The Army, he said, "faces a knowledge gap, a relatability gap, a trust gap and a culture gap," with the most significant barriers to service being fears of death or injury, suffering psychological harm, and leaving behind friends and family.
The Pentagon has attributed its difficulties in recruiting to a variety of factors, including the nation's low unemployment rate, school closings during the coronavirus pandemic that limited recruiters' access to high school students and faculty, and a shifting culture in which more teens gravitate to jobs with an attractive work-life balance.
Lt. Col. Toby Adamson, commander, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, was one of the guest speakers at the COI event that helped educators become familiar with the opportunities and resources the Utah National Guard has to offer their students.
“This is the first time we have invited high school administrators and counselors – the people that have that center of influence on high school students – and brought them out here for an orientation of what we have to offer,” said Adamson. “We are a community-based organization. That citizen Soldier thing really reignites with the Guard."
Additional presenters gave an overview of programs like Freedom Academy, the Minuteman Scholarship, United Families and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery – or ASVAB – is a timed, multi-aptitude, multiple-choice test, that helps students prepare for the ACT. The test helps students to narrow down their interests, building a path to pursue the career field that piques their interest the most. The test also shows how much a living wage is in specific counties and cities in Utah.
“The ASVAB is going to teach you the stuff you need to know to take your SAT or ACT. Based on your score, it can predict what your ACT score is going to be within two points,” said Adamson. “And then on top of that, it’s really the interpretation of your score because it’s an aptitude test. It says you will do well in this area or in that area. It tells you what jobs you are going to do well, and then it provides you with a career path or a path to go ‘well if I want this job, I have to do x y and z to get there.’ The point that really ties in is the financial literacy side of it. How much does it take to live in American Fork, Provo or Salt Lake? You need to be making $20 an hour to afford an apartment, food and all those things that I don’t think kids this age – sophomores to seniors – understand that.”
A few educators that attended said that this was their first time learning about the
United Family program of Parole in Place, where their students, and the families of those students, could become United States citizens in as little as three to six months. The program offers solutions and benefits for those families desiring to become citizens.
“I’m a big proponent of Parole in Place. I think it’s huge for our underprivileged kids. Whether they are Latino, Hispanic, Polynesian, or wherever they come from, I think we can get them on the fast track to citizenship for themselves and their families,” said Adamson. “Our program gives them citizenship, insurance, and other resources that will help them better themselves in the community. That’s truly what we are here for. It’s to better our communities, better our relationships with our communities and partners and provide opportunities for everyone.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the committee chairman, defended the military's work to promote diversity.
"Let me be clear: Diversity and inclusion strengthen our military," Reed said. "By every measure, America's military is more lethal and ready than it has ever been. It is also more diverse and inclusive than ever before. This is not a coincidence."
After receiving the overview brief about the Utah National Guard and programs that the Guard offers to help their students – whether they join the military or not – these COI educators walked away with a better understanding and tools that they can use and teach for the success of their students.
“I have so much admiration for the people who serve our country. If you are going to allow people into your school, I think it’s important to know what the kids are being recruited into,” said Peter Glahn, the principal of American Fork High School. “I think there are a lot of misgivings, and maybe some false information about military service, and I’d love to be able to speak to that. If there are any parents with concerns about anything, I’d love to be able to answer any questions anyone has if they come to me. I’m proud of our service people.”
Additional Centers of Influence flights are planned this year for educators in Sanpete, Iron, Washington, Cache, Box Elder and Weber Counties.