JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –
In Thomasville, Georgia, a community with a small Army presence, Staff Sgt. Ralph Cajuste is making an indelible impact and concerted effort to expose local youth to the benefits of an Army career.
The eight-year Army veteran began recruiting in Thomasville in 2018 and since, has earned recognition as the top performing recruiter in his station and the Jacksonville Beaches Chamber of Commerce's U.S. Army Recruiter of the Year.
In fiscal year 2019, Cajuste hired 31 future Soldiers, surpassing individual goals and contributing to his recruiting station meeting annual mission three months ahead of schedule.
“One of my main goals is to become a staple in the community,” he said. “I want these kids and their parents to think of me when deciding their future. To know that I am 100 percent committed to helping and preparing them to the best of my ability. There isn't a single soldier that has joined the Army underneath me that I haven't built and maintained a strong bond with. I see myself in these young people so it makes it that much more important for me to stand by them step-by-step throughout the entire recruitment process.”
It’s that approach that’s made him a recognizable face in the community – the most lucrative means to attract the best talent to the Army, he said.
One of the ways he inspires those looking to serve is to emphasize the importance of physical fitness by training alongside them. Every Monday he works out at the gym with recruits as part of future Soldier training. He’s also a regular at High Performance, a local dojo in town where he practices Jiu Jitsu with recruits, which include his wife, Kalicia, who he recently recruited into the Army.
“I have kids come up to me asking if they can join Jiu Jitsu as a part of their physical training and I absolutely welcome them,” he said. “It’s a great workout and it prepares them for combatives once they join. It also shows that you can still have a hobby while serving active in the military.”
He added, “I believe it builds camaraderie as well, which is a very important aspect of being a Soldier. If I can get these kids to do something positive with their time while helping to prepare them for any aspect of the military world, I count it as a win.”
And as one of a handful of Soldiers in this small, tight-knit community ripe for new Army talent, representing the finest of the community is the best recruiting tool in his pocket.