PHOENIX (Sept. 6, 2017) — With a full basketball scholarship to the University of the Pacific in California, the future looked bright for Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Kirim. But during one fateful game in 2010, Kirim suffered a knee injury that tore her anterior cruciate ligament, requiring reconstructive surgery and leaving her dreams shattered.
With her scholarship taken away due to the severity of the injury, Kirim put a backup plan in place that would ultimately pay dividends: she enlisted in the Army, something she had dreamed of before college.
Kirim, center leader for Black Canyon Recruiting Center, Phoenix North Recruiting Company, has long since rebounded from her injury and become a top-producing recruiter for the company since joining the battalion a year ago.
Kirim, a native of Lodi, California, enlisted in November 2010 after suffering the injury, something she said was devastating at the time.
“After blowing my knee out and losing my scholarship, I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do what I loved anymore,” Kirim said. “I had always wanted to join the Army, whether as enlisted or commissioned, so I figured that was the best time.”
Kirim took on the military occupational specialty of recovery mechanic and moved to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as her first duty assignment, leading to a deployment to Afghanistan in 2012-13 with the 101st Airborne Division.
“It was a great deployment for me. I got to go to a lot of places with different units,” she said. “I was attached to British and Canadian special forces units and did recovery operations for them. The leadership experience was extremely valuable for me.”
Following the deployment, Kirim moved to Fort Benning, Georgia, for the next two years and worked in field artillery, before getting notified she was going to be a recruiter.
“I was nervous when I found out I was going to be a recruiter,” she admitted. “I was getting promoted rapidly in my own MOS and was very successful, so I was nervous to come to Phoenix and start something new.”
Kirim moved to the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion in July 2016, and said she struggled at first before finding her way.
“I didn’t know how I was going to fit in and contribute to the team,” she explained. “The first few months were rough, but once I started getting my own rhythm going, I started being successful.”
Keys to Success
The keys to her success came from trying different things and not being afraid to fail, Kirim said.
“What works for one person may not work for you, so you have to excel in one area and not be afraid to fail in others,” she said. “That was my biggest thing at first — I didn’t want to fail, so I didn’t try new things. Once I got over that, I realized I had to try different techniques and find what I was good at and thrive on them.”
Kirim said social media has been an aid that has helped her succeed, as well as being an assistant basketball coach at Moon Valley High School here, something she said she relishes greatly.
“The team loves having me out there, especially when I bring other recruiters. We do strength and conditioning and answer questions about the Army,” Kirim said. “They love to see people volunteering. That’s why we go out there, and they’re super receptive to it.”
Kirim’s performance resulted in being appointed as center leader of the Black Canyon center this year, and it quickly became one of the top-performing centers in the battalion.
“I was worried at first how it would play out as the center leader, but the other recruiters and I all got on board and started putting future soldiers in right away,” she said. “Morale improved immediately, and we’ve been moving upwards ever since.”
No Gender Barrier
As a female recruiter, Kirim said, she was apprehensive how she would be perceived when beginning her assignment, but that her gender has proven to be no barrier whatsoever.
“I’ve come to find out being a female recruiter is positive, because female recruits feel comfortable talking to you,” she said. “The males do too, because they aren’t as intimidated.”
Beyond the world of recruiting, Kirim said, she hopes to gain a slot at Airborne School in the coming months, with an eye to trying out in special operations in the near future.
“That’s what I see as elite in the Army, and if I’m successful at everything else I’ve done, why not push myself even harder?” she said. “I want the opportunity to prove myself at the highest levels.”
Pictured above: Army Staff Sgt. Jennifer Kirim, who’s currently assigned at the Black Canyon Recruiting Center in Phoenix, poses while deployed in Afghanistan in 2012, while at the rank of specialist. Kirim deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division as a recovery mechanic. (Courtesy photo)