FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. –
A lot of Soldiers enjoy their job in the Army, and Staff Sgt. Ami Witherspoon, a recruiter assigned to Mid-Missouri Company, Kansas City Recruiting Battalion, is no exception. What makes her work so enjoyable, she said, is the ever-changing and fulfilling nature of helping people “achieve their goals.”
“I truly enjoy it,” she said. “It is challenging but equally as rewarding. It allows for us, as Soldiers, to bridge the gap between civilians and the Army. We are the ones who get to go out and participate within the community. We get to be educators with a platform to show and explain that the Army is so much more than what the movies portray it to be. We shed light on all the benefits it offers, all the incredible experiences young men and women can have. We get to help those who may not be afforded certain opportunities to achieve their goals regardless of economic constraints. We get to put people on a path to do so much more with themselves then they may have ever imagined doing.”
Witherspoon, who has worked out of the recruiting office in St. Robert for nearly two years, said it’s nice to have a job where each day is always spent doing something different.
“Some days are primarily spent in the office, working on things necessary for applicants – gathering documents, doing paperwork,” she said. “Other days are busy in and out of schools, volunteering my time at animal shelters, assisting with food drives within local communities – truly being stewards of our profession.”
The Army has more than 150 different jobs available for potential recruits, and Witherspoon said she strives to get applicants into the career they want to pursue in line with information the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, mental aptitude assessment scores provide.
“We recruit for all of those jobs, but the applicant is never locked into a job unless they choose it,” she said.
She added that being a recruiter so close to an Army installation makes her job even easier.
“Fort Leonard Wood does an amazing job allowing us to provide our recruits with a visual for what the Army has to offer – what their future home might look like,” she said.
Witherspoon said a lot of the questions applicants ask focus on pay, educational opportunities, length of service and physical requirements – and what the drill sergeants are like.
“They generally have an idea of what they would like to do in the Army when they come in,” she said, “but we get a lot of questions about how tough the drill sergeants are. We tell them the drills are fair, it’s a safe environment and everyone is treated with dignity and respect.”
Through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Witherspoon said the focus of her job remains unchanged, just some of the little details of how it’s accomplished are different.
“We have serious parameters to ensure we are as safe as possible – not only for ourselves and our families but, for those seeking to find a home within the Army,” she said. “We are all working six-feet apart and ensuring everyone who enters our recruiting office is given a mask, they have their temperature taken and are given hand sanitizer.”
The recruiting office in St. Robert – located at 332 Marshall Drive, Suite A, just off Missouri Avenue – is assigned a coverage area from Conway, Missouri in the west, to Rolla, Missouri in the east.
“With all of the military families around here and a tendency for military service to be generational, this is an especially good place to be a recruiter,” Witherspoon said.
While everyone has a different, personal reason for joining the Army, Witherspoon said some of the stories stick in her mind as special.
“I put a brother and sister in together,” she said. “I put some of my senior noncommissioned officer’s children in. This was a great feeling – that they trusted me with their children’s futures, but more importantly, to watch a family come full circle. One getting ready to retire while their child is getting ready to start. That’s pretty neat to watch.”
Sgt. 1st Class Gabriel Cruz is coming up on three years as a recruiter in St. Robert. He has worked alongside Witherspoon throughout her time in the area and said he’s “proud to serve alongside her.”
“She is one of the most hard-charging professionals I have served with in my 15 years in the Army,” he said. “Her commitment and dedication to the team is second to none. The moment she got here, I knew she was going to be a great asset to the team. Her willingness to learn her job and get out there in front of people she doesn’t even know to tell the Army story is remarkable.”
Originally from Ontario, Canada, Witherspoon said that years ago while taking some time off from university to teach English in South Korea, she met her then husband – an American Soldier stationed there. She said she serves in the Army to properly provide for her daughter, K’ya.
“It has not always been easy to be a hands-on parent while in the Army, but I have always been able to provide for my daughter,” she said. “She was and is the biggest part of why I continue to serve.”
Witherspoon said recruiting is a good fit for her because of the impact it has on the Army and the individuals who gain “opportunities to make better lives” for themselves through service to their country.
“To me, recruiting is an excellent opportunity within the Army,” she said. “You are helping civilians become the best versions of themselves. You are taking young men and women and engaging them in a lifestyle that simply elevates who they truly are. You are providing opportunities to make better lives – to promote education, career progression, financial security. To be a part of that is very fulfilling.”
Anyone in the Fort Leonard Wood community interested in speaking with an Army recruiter can call the St. Robert Army Career Center at 573.336.5544.
(Editor’s note: GUIDON volunteer Heather Kline contributed to this article.)