FORT KNOX, KY –
It was a 10/20 approach to the 2020 reality. Members of the New York City recruiting community met online Tuesday (10/20/20) for Army Recruiting Command’s first brown-bag lunch meeting in the now-common world of virtual get-togethers.
Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, USAREC commanding general, participated from his office here via the Microsoft Teams platform, welcoming a wide variety of current and prospective community partners in New York City, Long Island and Westchester County to the online meeting.
The new virtual series “Informed and Inspired: Lunch & Learn” is part of the command’s Partnership Outreach Program designed to help create awareness and build relationships with community leaders and influencers. Attendees for the inaugural event included educators, business leaders, law enforcement officials and human resource representatives.
Vereen kicked off the hour-long discussion with a brief overview of the Army’s recruiting mission and highlighted key partnership and outreach programs like Partnership for Youth Success. The program, commonly referred to as PaYS, guarantees Future Soldiers and ROTC cadets a job interview and possible employment with organizations across private industry. Amazon, Coca-Cola, Sony and Disney are among more than 800 companies to make PaYS commitments.
“We love this program,” Vereen said. “I always tell everybody that it takes a community to grow an Army … (PaYS) is just one venue we use (for) that opportunity.”
The Concurrent Admissions Program, or ConAP, was also highlighted during the luncheon as a partnership to mutually advance community and Army goals. ConAP focuses on linking Future Soldiers to participating colleges at the time of enlistment. It’s “one of the most exciting programs” the Army uses to create partnerships, according to Dr. David Baker, the NYC Battalion’s education services specialist.
Baker pointed out that the Soldiers recruited by the NYC Battalion in 2019 alone represented more than $150 million in GI Bill benefits. ConAP can link that kind of money right back into the community. Baker hopes his battalion sees a near 100 percent increase in schools with ConAP access to GI funds in the next year.
“I want this money that we’ve recruited,” Baker said via the online meeting, “I want it to stay local, with us here in the New York City area.”
Baker’s briefing was followed by personal stories from three current Soldiers, including Lt. Col. James Hendon, an Army Reserve Soldier and the New York City Department of Veteran’s Services commissioner. Hendon shared how overcoming fear was a central theme of his Army journey.
“I’m so grateful I got past that,” Hendon said, referring to a fear of joining the Army that was later followed by the fear of joining the infantry. He learned in the Army to turn fear of the unknown into an opportunity.
“Well, I’m afraid of this,” Hendon taught himself to say, “Let me go do that.”
1st Lt. Matthew Mickey, an executive officer in the NYC Battalion, talked to community partners about growing up in foster care, becoming homeless his senior year of high school, and finishing 225th out of 226 students in his class.
“Education was irrelevant at that time in my life,” Mickey said.
Then 9/11 happened and he was in an Army recruiter’s office the next day. He moved through the enlisted ranks to the second-highest enlisted Army rank of master sergeant. He finished a bachelor’s degree paid for by the Army and was selected for officer commissioning through Green to Gold, a program that also allowed him to receive an active-duty paycheck while studying full-time for his master’s degree at the college of his choice.
Mickey’s Army education benefits didn’t end there. His Army benefits paid for his wife’s degree, he said, and “my 9-year-old daughter will have two years of her education paid for by the Post 9/11 GI Bill.”
Paying for an education was the number one reason Staff Sgt. Marlyne Yorke joined the Army, she said during the online luncheon. Yorke, who is now a recruiter assigned to Long Island, claims Brooklyn as her hometown after migrating from Jamaica 12 years ago.
Joining the Army also allowed Yorke to support her family and quicken her path to U.S. citizenship. “That was huge,” she said with an enthusiastic Jamaican accent.
Vereen later shared with meeting organizers that he especially enjoyed the Soldier Stories segment of the luncheon. He is scheduled to hear more stories and talk to more community partners at the command’s second virtual brown bag with the Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion on Nov. 16. A third with the Mid-Atlantic Recruiting Battalion is scheduled for Dec. 4.
Individuals can volunteer at any time to support the recruiting effort in their communities through the Partnership Outreach Program at www.goarmy.com/cp.