The U.S. Army wants you! Or does it?

Staff Sergeant Victor Farrier

Photo by Larry Dalton

It’s no longer simply a career choice for many of the people who call the U.S. Army recruiting office near the corner of Arden and Howe. The question of killing and dying is at the front of their minds. But if revenge is your only reason for enlisting, they may not want you. Staff Sergeant Victor Farrier signed up during the Gulf War, and though that campaign wasn’t the reason he joined, he feels he can relate to the many people who are thinking about signing up during, and because of, the current crisis. A composed, softly spoken man who’s been recruiting in Sacramento for 18 months, he says he joined because he wanted adventure. Though he hasn’t had the opportunity to see combat in his 11-year career, he has expanded on his education and gone through extensive training, from airborne to ranger school, as well as participating in several humanitarian aid campaigns in Asia, Central Europe and Central America.

I guess recruiting has changed pretty drastically since September 11.

Interest is pretty much up. There are a lot of people asking a lot more questions about different branches, not just the Army. A fair amount of people [walk in]. We have a lot of calls and a lot of people checking things out on the Internet.

I can’t say that the numbers in recruiting have gone up, but I know that from where I sit here in Sacramento the interest has severely picked up.

How has the heightened interest affected recruiting?

Since the attack on the 11th, the maturity level of those who actually come in or call in or ask for information about it has gone up. So we’re looking at more people, on the average, between 27 and (laughs) 84. We’ve had many people call who are retirees or veterans from World War II or other campaigns. But still, first and foremost, they all have to go through qualifications.

And what are those qualifications?

Between the ages of 27 and 35. High-school diploma graduate or completed a GED. Successfully passed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, as we call it. For people who have a GED, when they take this test they have to score a minimum of 50. As a high-school diploma graduate, they can score as low as a 31 and come in that way. Then they take a complete physical, they get pretty much checked out from head to toe, eyes, ears, nose, throat, range of motion of your arms, medical history. Then, moral. We look at law violations—felonies, misdemeanors, things of that nature. That’s one of those things that’s a case-by-case basis, based on what it was, how long ago it was, if there’s anything of a pattern. DUI’s, drugs, stuff like that.

All that stuff makes them ineligible?

Well, initially yes. Because, the way the Army is going to look at it is, hey, you did it out there, what’s to say you’re not going to do it while you’re in the Army. So when you do it within the Army that brings a bad name not only upon yourself but on the Army as a whole. And people start looking at the Army and saying they’re nothing but a bunch of felons. So that’s thoroughly screened prior to letting anybody come in.

What exactly are people coming in expecting to do for the country and/or the armed services?

Ordinarily, we hear more like, “OK, I’m looking to get training and college money, I’m looking to get bonus money.” And then here and there you may have someone who is just, you know, “do my time for the service,” or “do my time for my country.” More service-to-the-country oriented. [But] a lot of people use it as a stepping stone, come in for college money, like that. And some use it to … if they’re just out there kind of flapping in the breeze, they come in to, as they always define it, to get discipline and direction.

But since the 11th, it’s been more, “OK, what can we do to help? Is there anything we can do to help make a difference?” That’s one of the more common things. I mean, we’ve had calls anywhere from construction workers to doctors.

Do you think it’s good, the sudden interest in the armed forces because of events? Do you think it’s reactionary?

Yeah. A big part of it’s reactionary. But then there’s still that percentage of it where people are looking for specific items for themselves, to assist them in accomplishing their goals, or securing a future and whatnot.

Is the Army more interested in people who have personal goals, rather than people who are simply reacting to events?

Not necessarily. I won’t say that the Army’s interested in just one or the other. There’s a certain category. But it’s neither of the above. Those people who are self-motivated, got initiative, are loyal, know what duty’s all about, respectful, serving the country, honor, integrity, all those things that we call our core values. Those are certain things that the Army actually looks for in people.

Do you think recent events are bringing that out in people?

Maybe some. Some people call in and say, “Yeah, I just wanted to know if there’s something I could do to actually help, I wouldn’t mind going over there and just killing everybody.” Stuff like that. That’s not going to happen. Most of them are aware [that it’s more of a commitment], but there are those certain few who are like, “Hey I just want to go and do something. How long would it be before I could … get over there?” Well you’ve got to be trained. Nine weeks of basic training and, depending on what your job is, your advanced individual training or skill training could be anywhere from two months to a year.

What’s going to happen to you, in terms of what’s going on in Afghanistan?

I will continue to be here and be a recruiter. I wouldn’t mind [going overseas] at all. That’s one of the things I joined the Army to do. But if the Army deems I’m going to be of more use here as a recruiter, then I’m going to be here and apply the same motivation and enthusiasm that I would apply if I were actually overseas.