By C. Todd Lopez
ROSEVILLE, Minn. (June 18, 2008) -- The Minnesota Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion has already beaten its goal for the year -- with more than three months to spare.
The battalion has recruited about 1,700 new Soldiers since Oct. 1, well over the unit's mission goal, said Lt. Col. Jake Kulzer, the units commander.
"Right now we're at about 180 percent of our assigned mission, so we are crushing that," he said. "And that's what makes us No. 1. Also, with the new Active First program, we're putting more folks in than anybody else in the country."
Kulzer said Guard recruiters in Minnesota have put 170 Soldiers into the Army through the Active First program. Under that program, which began in October, young men and women are recruited by the National Guard to complete a term of service in both the Active and National Guard components of the Army. Those recruits are paid bonuses based on the duration of the active-service commitment they choose to accept.
Secretary of the Army Pete Geren visited the recruiting battalion, Monday, after having been in Minnesota to sign an Army community covenant in the state's capital, St. Paul.
Kulzer said he explained to the secretary why he thought his battalion of 98 recruiters, spread across 72 locations in the state, was able to achieve the phenomenal recruiting rates that put them in the No. 1 recruiting spot within the Army National Guard.
"Well, we have been working really hard," he said. "And we have a tremendous noncommissioned officer corps. My NCOs have also been in a long time, they are smart, and they know how to make mission."
Kulzer also credits the community, the local media and the state government for creating an environment that is conducive to Army recruiting.
"Post-9/11, we got a tremendous amount of media coverage, and the coverage here is pro-Soldier -- so we are a highly respected organization in this state, whether people support the war or not," Kulzer said. "And while the community sees us deploy overseas and do a good job there, they also see us responding to state emergencies and disasters locally. So community support of Soldiers here is tremendous."
Credit for the Minnesota recruiting and retention battalion's success also goes to the recruits themselves, Kulzer said.
"This generation of folks are patriotic folks and want to be part of something bigger than themselves," he said. "We're primarily a non-prior-service market, so we recruit a lot of recent high-school grads. They are great folks, they are intelligent and they turn out to be great Soldiers."