BATON ROUGE, La. -- Ben Iles, a retired Army officer and currently a GS Civilian in the Joint Readiness Training Center Operations Group Physical Security team, went back to his Soldier roots and stepped up to assist when the Army began publishing its recruiting struggles and need for support.
Iles wanted to help by sharing his own Army Story to highlight benefits to his family, country, and overall patriotism.
“I enlisted in the Army in 1982 at the age of 18. The Army lifted me from poverty, educated me, and introduced me to a rich and diverse population. I also learned that if I applied myself, I could not only succeed, but also make a difference in the lives of others,” said Iles. “When I had 9 years in service I applied for and was accepted to Officer Candidate School (OCS). I served my country for almost 25 years.”
Iles saw Gen. Gary Brito, Training and Doctrine Command Commander, on television talking to the recruitment issues facing our Army. Iles happened to know Brito as his Tactical Officer at Officer Candidate School, so he emailed him.
“I suggested that we retired Soldiers be allowed to assist recruitment efforts in the communities where we live. I have lived in the Fort Polk community since 2005. I am a member of the Lion’s Club, serve as a Deacon in my church, very active in the community, and know many others who do the same,” he said. “I felt as though I could help here locally with recruitment efforts. Brito agreed and sent my email to the Commander of USAREC, Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis. Davis and I just happened to have served as majors together in Iraq in 2006. He forwarded my email to Lt. Col. Adam Marsh, the Baton Rouge Battalion Commander. Marsh just happened to have been an Observer Controller Trainer (OCT) here at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, and we knew each other. It seemed like a great plan was coming together before our very eyes.”
Marsh put the Lafayette command team in touch with Iles soon after. Staff Sgt. Borgesi, DeRidder Recruiting Station, arranged for a Junior and Senior Class presentation at Anacoco High School, where Iles was the guest speaker.
Iles entered the auditorium singing a military cadence, explaining that the Army uses these cadences when marching and running.
“At the start of the discussion only two individuals raised their hands as interested in service but by the end, over half the audience raised their hands saying they were now interested,” said Capt. Kevin Finerty, Lafayette Company Commander.
Since the presentation, Anacoco High School has specifically requested Iles for future events with the Juniors and Seniors, their parents, and influencers to further discuss opportunities and benefits for their future.
“Mr. Iles was very successful in helping us represent the United States Army and USAREC. He is very passionate about the military, and we are very grateful that he is willing to work with us to help in our recruiting efforts,” said Borgesi. "We are lucky to have people in our community who are willing to help to talk to students and who are passionate about the Army.”
Community Partners and Veterans can tell their stories with a unique perspective and experience to lend a hand to local recruiters and help them achieve the mission.
“He really has a unique Army story and can help provide invaluable feedback to our Recruiters,” said Finerty. “He is proving to help rebound our DeRidder station and infuse new and different energy in the schools.”
As for the future, Iles says he and other Veterans would love to step up and help the effort. Perhaps even having retired Soldiers assist in the stations as a Department of the Army Civilian.
“The successes that I have enjoyed are a direct result of applying myself through the many opportunities that I received from the Army,” Iles said. “It will be hard to deny that retired Soldiers can and are willing to assist in this worthwhile effort. The very defense of our Nation and its way of life is dependent on recruiting efforts and the steady replacement of our greatest resource, America’s youth.”