Another one-sided, poorly reported story – it’s written by a staff intern, but that’s still really no excuse. Warren isn’t that far away from Pittsburgh, where the POG challenge recruiters on a regular basis. One interesting line from the recruiter, who seems conscious of the abuses recruiters are known for, quoted in the story: “I try not to be like the other recruiters out there.”
Military recruitment may be on the decline across the nation, but that doesn’t stop local recruiters from plugging away, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing the stream of recruits from Warren County.
Army recruiter Sgt. 1st Class Justin Floridia said he fuses values into his job.
“I stress honesty and integrity,” Floridia said. “When I talk to young people about joining, I’m a firm believer in letting them know what they’re getting into. I let them know boot camp is the hardest thing they’ll ever do. I tell them the Army is a job and if they’re not willing to work they’ll probably be hurting. I tell them if they come into the Army with a bad attitude, they will get a bad attitude from the Army. I tell them we go to war because that’s what we get paid for.”
For Floridia, honesty encompasses what he does and doesn’t say.
“Some come in saying they want to go to Iraq,” he explained. “I can’t promise them that. I make no promises until it’s on paper. I explain when they go to sign their contracts that I need to make sure what I told them is on there. From that point forward I will guarantee it all day long but until then I can’t promise it. Then I show them what I can do for them as far as benefits, pay, promotion and education.”
Floridia said he makes sure recruits are motivated by the right things.
“I tell them if they’re looking for a bonus, good luck,” he said. “If you take a job for a bonus, you’re doing it for the wrong reason. Money goes away. Who cares if you have $10,000 if you’re miserable everyday?”
Floridia also ensures his recruits have an Army occupation that is right for them.
“I can show them the different jobs offered before they’re picked,” he explained. “I go through and tell them what each job does. There’s no sense in having 52 weeks of training and then be miserable and drop out. That costs money and time. It makes me look like a bad person.”
Floridia finds himself battling stereotypes in his line of work.
“I try not to be like the other recruiters out there,” he said. “Recruiters have a bad name, and I try to steer my recruits away from that right off the bat. Either they join or not. They make that decision, not me.”
Despite national trends, Floridia has not seen low recruitment in the local area.
“We’re meeting our mission and in some cases going past it,” he said. “We’re on track to make mission for the year as far as our station which is Warren, McKean and Potter counties. That’s because of the fact we’re straight with people.”
Although many recruiters use high schools to reach out to potential candidates, Floridia deemphasizes that approach.
“I get in trouble because I don’t go to schools that often,” he said. “If they want to join, they know where to find us. We’re required to contact 100 percent of each junior and senior class. We’re supposed to to call their houses and discuss their future plans.”
That discussion sometimes diverges from the military, but Floridia said he doesn’t mind.
“I had two young ladies and a gentleman from Bradford who didn’t join but I helped them with scholarships,” Floridia explained. “I’m not just here to put people in boots. I’m here to provide guidance. If I can help people better themselves, I feel good when I go home. Nothing upsets me more than somebody who sits around, complains and does nothing. The Army is not for everybody and everybody is not for the Army. If everyone joined, we wouldn’t have doctors or construction workers or anything else. I talk to everybody and help when I can.”
Hugh Dwyer, school district assistant superintendent, pointed out schools are required to cooperate with military recruiters.
“It’s in the No Child Left Behind Act,” he explained. “We have to provide them the opportunity to visit at the schools and directory information. At Warren Area High School, they visit a couple times per year usually in the fall and spring and work through the guidance department. They set up in the front lobby for drop-by opportunities during lunch. They follow up with interested students. I talked to William Sullivan, Warren’s assistant principal, and he said they have had a positive rleationship. They haven’t had any issues or conflicts.”
Darrell Jaskolka, Youngsville High School principal, discussed the recruitment process at his school.
“Recruiters report to the guidance office and try to set up appointments,” he explained. “Students don’t go out of class but out of homeroom or study hall. They come perhaps once every two weeks especially as we’re getting closer to the second half of the year.”
Jaskolka feels having recruiters present is positive.
“It gives kids an option,” Jaskolka said. “You have college, vocational and work force opportunites. For some it may be an option to go to college based on the government paying for tuition. It’s a viable option for males or females who can’t spend the money on college. They can learn a new school while providing a service for their country and take college later. They also grow up and get maturity. Some are not sure what they want to do in their lives and it provides structure. Everyone I’ve seen has shown tremendous maturity when they get out. They work with school academics to put pressure on recruits to make sure they pass. They’re like quasi-guidance counselors. They want them to join the service but they also want to see them get their diplomas.”
Ryan Mongillo, one of Floridia’s recruits, discussed what the process was like for him.
“I always wanted to do it, so when I got the opportunity I wanted to join the Army,” he said. “I had a friend who was a Marind and we were real close. I always loved being outside and hunting. I’ll be in the military police and I can interview with the state police when I’m done if I choose to. My friends support me because they know it’s something I want to do but at the same time they don’t want to see me leave.”