Mississippi National Guard still seeing interest from new recruits

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 5:28 PM CDT
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OCEAN SPRINGS, Miss. (WLOX) - With South Mississippi businesses are slowly filling vacancies, recruiters with the Mississippi National Guard said they haven’t seen issues with interested people coming through the door.

“There’s been no shortage of people wanting to join, whether it be for patriotic purposes, whether it be because they want a fat bonus, they want their college paid for,” said Staff Sgt. Dusty Cooley.

South Mississippi recruiters said the benefits typically attract 17-21 year-olds, but not everyone is cut out to work for the military. From plumbing to aviation engineers and everything in between, officials said the openings the National Guard has require more knowledgeable recruits.

“Long gone are the days where the military is your last resort. We are looking for the best and the brightest,” Cooley said.

While COVID-19 has restricted typical recruiting methods, officials said the National Guard’s educational benefits are one of the things that young people are drawn to.

“Nobody can beat our college benefits. Other branches have college tuition assistance. However, they all have caps with what they can cover and some don’t cover until you’ve been in for a little bit,” Sgt. Joel Fields said.

Fields also mentioned the benefits new recruits have even while they are still in high school.

“What job do you work one weekend a month? And we will pay you to go to school and pay for your school. No other job. And on top of that, (we’ll) give you medical benefits and retirement and all the other stuff that we have to offer,” Fields said.

While college perks draw the most people in, recruiters said the chance for people to serve their community also inspires them to enlist.

“We are the 911 to the 911. We are there for the community in time of need,” Fields said.

That’s something South Mississippi experienced firsthand with guardsmen helping with Hurricane Zeta relief and COVID-19 testing and vaccine drives.

Recruiters hope residents keep those memories in mind when they think about what the National Guard is capable of.

“It made me proud to see these guys are active and giving back to the community. That’s what it’s all about,” Cooley said.

For more information about how to enlist in the National Guard, visit their website.

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