PHOENIX – Leadership from the Phoenix Recruiting Battalion attended the Arizona Business & Education Coalition (ABEC) membership quarterly meeting, Aug. 25, Desert Willow Conference Center, Phoenix.
The AEBC is a combination of Arizona business, education, nonprofit and faith-based community leaders, who meet quarterly to discuss various state level issues such as education funding, career pathway needs, student achievement and the teacher shortage crisis.
Briefing ABEC members was Lt. Col. Dave Clukey, commander, Phoenix Rec. Bn, who continued his narrative focused on opportunities available with service in the US Army and breaking contemporary paradigms regarding the military.
“In today’s society you get a lot of things on social media, the news, and movies, that may shape your opinion about the military,” Clukey said. “But there are opinions and then there’s actual reality.”
Clukey said there’s a lot of negative connotations associated to the Army, some dating back to the Vietnam War, but the Army has improved as an organization to overcome this stigma.
“The biggest difference today is the Army consists of all volunteers, nobody is drafted,” he said. “Everybody who serves made the decision to do so, fully understanding the implications of what it means.”
Clukey said he focuses on three different groups as key influencers towards Army service; parents, students and educators.
“Parents see the military as dangerous. What they see in movies is military service members exposed to extreme violence and numerous young men and women struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – that is simply not the case,” he continued. “There’s over 180 different jobs in the Army alone and a very small percentage of those are combat arms jobs.”
“Special Operations Forces, the element of the military Hollywood generally focuses on the most, only consists of .01 percent of the military. The vast preponderance of service members are employed in combat support and combat service support roles like human resource specialists, mail clerks, dental technicians … jobs that translate directly into civilian occupations.”
In the 16 years of United States (U.S.) military operations in support of the Global War of Terror and Overseas Contingency Operations, the U.S. has suffered over 7,000 casualties, Clukey continued. However, comparatively there are over 39,000 annual automobile related deaths in the United States alone.
“The number of deaths on the battlefield over 16 years has resulted in a very small percentage compared to the annual losses on U.S. roads, and when total military casualties are compared to the total number of automobile related deaths (over 640,000) in the same 16 year time period, its negligible,” he explained. “But if you watch the news and see what’s out there on social media, you think ‘oh my gosh, we’re losing people all the time.’ That’s not the case and I can quickly dismiss that.”
Clukey then discussed the educational benefits associated with military service, including fully paid college tuition, in an era of rising costs.
“The average four year college degree runs over one hundred thousand dollars,” he said. “We pay for college. Not just the Army, all the Armed Services. Education is absolutely critical in the military. With every promotion, there’s a school associated with it.”
There are some concerning facts regarding those eligible to serve however, with Arizona being no exception, Clukey stated.
“Currently in the U.S., only three out of ten of our youth meet the bare minimum requirements for military service,” Clukey said. “31 percent of our youth are obese and 9.5 percent don’t meet the aptitude requirements. You have to be a high school graduate to serve these days.”
Another statistic is the declining amount of those serving who have family members or friends who have also served, he continued, a number down to below 16 percent nationally.
“If someone’s parents were in the military, their kids are more apt to serve,” Clukey said. “That’s not what the Army wants. The Army wants diversity, it does not want an organization that consists of people from one demographic.”
Clukey then dispelled the notion that joining the military is a last resort for those with few options.
“It is definitely not a last resort … I’ve personally worked with giants, people you see in books who’ve made or contributed to U.S. history,” he said. “People we need, based on technology alone, are folks who have a high aptitude and understand technology.”
Clukey noted that Gen. Mark A. Milley, 39th Army Chief of Staff, recently observed the challenges, complexity, and uncertainty of the future global operational environment, specifically addressing the organizational need for change and flexibility, as a 242 year old Army institution, and the need for Soldiers to be more independent and imaginative.
This correlates directly with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Clukey said, which requires free and adaptive thinkers in the military.
Clukey then addressed the employers in the audience and said people who have served will be more valuable members of their teams.
“You will have employees with values, someone who understands work, someone who understands team, and somebody who is educated and disciplined,” Clukey said.
Clukey also discussed the Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) program, where first-term Soldiers are guaranteed a job interview with the company of their choice after leaving the Army.
“The Army is partnered with over 500,000 organizations, he said. “When these kids enlist they’re assured of an interview with at least two of these companies. This gives them a foot in the door. They aren’t guaranteed a job, but an interview.”
Clukey concluded his speech by saying he simply wants people to be educated about the opportunities in today’s Army.
He asked for every high school student to be informed about Military Career Pathways and Education benefits; for parents to view the Army as a viable post-secondary option; for educators to provide students with fair and unbiased information; and for Parents/Educators/Community Leaders to broaden their knowledge about the Army and assist in dismantling myths.