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Military recruiters overcome pandemic challenges

T-R photo by Thomas Nelson — Herschel Edwards, sergeant first class and Javier Gomez, staff sergeant, Marshalltown National Guard recruiters, have overcome the challenge of recruiting during a pandemic.

Nothing can stop a good soldier.

Military recruiters have continued their search for new troops in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The National Guard and Marine Corps have a recruiting officer in Marshalltown and their staff has continued to search for young men and women who want to serve their country.

“Nothing has really changed for us. We’ve still been able to maintain being able to reach out and talk to people,” Herschel Edwards, sergeant first class and Marshalltown National Guard recruiter. “We have been working on social distancing.”

Recruiting, for Edwards and his fellow recruiter Staff Sergeant Javier Gomez is a personal thing. They both lived in Marshalltown and they focused on one-on-one interactions, before the pandemic started.

While COVID-19 is an issue, Edwards and Gomez have continued to reach out to prospective soldiers.

Prior to the pandemic they would work in the schools. Now they have moved to social media.

“All of our reporting has been very personalized,” Edwards said. “We’re living in our communities.”

For about two months no one was getting shipped out to bootcamp.

During that time the recruiters changed the dates for their incoming soldiers.

Since then they have been able to send out recruits and hear back from them on their experiences during bootcamp.

“When they initially get there, there is a quarantine period,” Edwards said. “They get screened, but they stay with their platoon that they’ll be training with during basic training.”

Military formations have changed to allow for social distancing, but overall training remains the same for all military branches.

Austin Leigh, sergeant and Marine recruiter, has also worked to overcome challenges created by COVID-19.

“The pandemic created an obstacle we [the recruiting staff in Marshalltown] needed to overcome,” he said. “Once we knew our left and right lateral limits, we adapted to the situation and continued the recruiting process.”

Leigh still has families and potential Marine recruits seeking more information from him.

The Marine Corps released a statement on their recruiting efforts during a pandemic:

“The preservation of our recruiting force, applicants, poolees, and their families is the highest priority for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command during this national emergency. Recruiting continues to be a mission-essential requirement for our Nation and Corps, and we will continue our efforts to take every precaution to safely ship young men and women to recruit training and Officer Candidate School as conditions permit. At the same time, it is recognized our mission-imperative is not the only consideration. Our efforts will prioritize protecting our Marines and families while remaining committed to recruiting the highly-qualified men and women our Nation needs for its Marine Corps.”

The pandemic will not stop military recruiters.

“We’re dedicated to our mission,” said Tim Smithers, sergeant for Marine marketing and communications.

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Contact Thomas Nelson at 641-753-6611 or tnelson@timesrepublican.com

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