Our Country Calls, Is East Tennessee Answering?

By: Gordon Boyd
By: Gordon Boyd

Knoxville (WVLT) - A four star general was in Knoxville swearing in some new recruits, Thursday

East Tennessean B.B. Bell, commander of our forces in South Korea, bestowed the special honor to seven East Tennessee inductees.

Now, the troops are set to begin their careers as soldiers.

Patricia Richards says it was the perfect time for her to enlist in the Army.

"I think that you should go in and support and defend your country. You know, my brother just went in and I want to be right beside him, and I believe that the reason we're there is a good reason, so I'm ready to go," says Patricia Richards, U.S. Army Inductee

Enlistee Richards is now headed for Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri to begin her Basic Training.

How much of an impact is the extended Iraq war having on our Armed Forces ability to find volunteers in the Volunteer State?

History, family traditions, and politics always have made Tennessee and the South fertile recruiting ground.

Even here, getting the numbers is getting tougher, but those who are signing up may be, more committed.

Recruits and recruiters know well the images of Iraq, coming into our living rooms every night, but whether because of, or in spite of them:

"I just want to serve my country, my oldest brother talked me into it, he's in Baghdad right now," says Army Recruit Jeremy Caps, who is bound for South Korea.

Barring a huge October, the Army will fall short of its recruiting target in the ten state Southeast Region that includes Tennessee.

But still doing far better than last year, even with higher quotas.

"...in the Knoxville Recruiting Company, we enlisted 130 more enlistees in the Army than we did last year," says First Sergeant Cary Rowe, an Army Recruiter. "It's 50-50, It's a threat, and they want to make it a career."

Enrollment has held steady in West High School's Navy Junior ROTC program since the Iraq war began.

"If I do military, which is very possible, it'll probably be a career," says Cadet Ensign Colton Loveday, 16, West NJROTC.

"....I know there's not a whole lot of support going on around here with everyone else in the country right now, I think someone needs to stand up and fight," says Cadet Lieutenant Commander Antoinette Stoudenmire, 17, JROTC.

The latest CBS News-New York Times Poll finds more than half Americans surveyed believes pulling out of Iraq now would not mean defeat.

Junior ROTC Cadet Andrew Markham says he probably won't join the Armed Forces, but, "the situation over there didn't affect me that much, it didn't make me not want to go."

"It depends on college, really. Like if I get accepted into the college or colleges I'd like to, that becomes first priority," says Stoudenmire.

For others, the question isn't if, but which branch of service.

"We have discipline, we have leadership."

"Being in the military, this is what I do. ROTC is like, what I am best at, in high school."

Lots can change between now, and when a 16 or 17-year old graduates high school.

The army is changing its advertising for the next recruiting year.

Those "Army of One" spots looked good, but folks had trouble figuring out what it meant.

There'll be tighter focusing on re-enlisting too.

Keeping a trained soldier is less expensive, and better for the fighting unit.


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