Throwback Thursday - Army Recruiting in The County

Published: Mar. 13, 2023 at 10:26 AM EDT
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The United States last military draft came to an end in 1973 when an all volunteer force concept was adopted. In this week’s throwback Thursday, we take a look at a time when those from the county, and the state volunteered in droves, Brian Bouchard has the story.

In March of 1986 the United States and Libyan forces clashed in the Gulf of Sidra around 2 weeks before the launch of Operation El Dorado Canyon, one of many operations conducted by the armed forces during the cold war. Despite the inherent danger of enlisting and concerned parents, recruiters of nearly every military branch found themselves with an abundance of applicants. In this week’s Throwback Thursday, we dial the time machine back to 1986 where WAGM reporter Sara Coddington takes a look at how many young folks in Presque Isle, and the State of Maine as a whole were enlisting.

By this time of year the state of Maine has usually signed up about 475 army recruits, but so far they are reporting 595 way ahead of projections, and the reason for the influx, educational benefits. Available college money ranges from 17000 dollars for the two year enlistment program, to 21000 dollars for three years, to a whopping 25000 dollars for the 4 year program. Numbers are up locally as well. In Presque isle the norm for the year is about 50 recruits, but they too have outdone projections, already enlisting 40 and projecting some 40 to 50 more by the end of October.

“This is a very, very strong area. We have some recruiters that have been accepted by the community very well and they’re also active in going out and going into the high schools, and into the communities, meeting people and becoming part of this entire Maine environment so they do very well.”

According to sergeant Roland Belanger, less people are getting out of the army after their first term of enlistment, making the military a career, while others go straight into the service from high school and then go back to college. General Ono says the recent terrorist attacks overseas has not affected recruitment.

“What can you tell parents that are afraid to let their children enlist, say, because of this Libya situation.”

“Well, be unafraid primarily, we are a strong nation. The president is not going to lead us in any sort of engagement in my mind that will be embarrassing. If their children were brought up with the correct values and habits, when they go into the army, we find that they will continue to follow them and so therefore, we have an army that’s loaded with high school graduates, and bright ones to boot and they’re doing extraordinarily well.”

Army officials say the quantity and quality of local enlisters is going up. They have 53% of the military recruits and apparently don’t need any war tactics to keep the numbers.

“The people from Maine have a history and tradition of serving their country so therefore they’re unafraid and willing to serve in the army.

The new modern volunteer army is growing and it seems has no intention of retreating.

Sara Coddington, Newsline 8