Colorado: Some looking to military in poor economy | VailDaily.com

Colorado: Some looking to military in poor economy

SCOTT ROCHAT(Longmont) Times-Call

LONGMONT, Colorado (AP) Serve your country. See the world. Earn a steady paycheck.That last part can look appealing in the middle of a recession, which is one reason the U.S. military is having no problems with recruitment these days.”My mom wanted me to get the experience of having the financial stability the military provides, before going out on my own,” said Nicole Valenzuela of Longmont, a new Navy recruit.”Was the economy a factor for me? No,” said Colter Christensen, another Navy recruit. “But my (college) graduating class, a lot of my classmates are starting to graduate and telling me how hard it is to find a job in the civilian world. I’m glad I decided to do this.”He has plenty of company. In 2008, all the services reported meeting or beating their recruitment goals, according to the Department of Defense the first time that’s happened in four years. And 2009 looks to be more of the same.That can vary from point to point, of course. The Navy post in Longmont that signed up Valenzuela and Christensen has seen the same amount of walk-up traffic as usual: about 20 to 30 applicants a month, resulting in about four to five recruits.What has changed is the type of recruit. There’s still plenty of fresh-faced teenagers. But more applicants here and elsewhere are in their 20s, looking at the service after racking up some work experience elsewhere.”These are the folks who might have looked at the military after getting out of high school and now are coming back to investigate further as to whether there’s a career for them,” said Dan Puleio, a retired Navy officer who now works in the service’s public affairs office as a civilian.Petty Officer Sean Chapel can’t blame them. He knows how tough the job market is these days his brother was recently laid off from AIG.”For a minimum-wage or low-wage worker, there’s still jobs out there,” Chapel said. “But if someone’s looking for a career path, it’s just not there.”In mid-April, the U.S. Labor Department reported that 6.14 million people were collecting unemployment benefits.Under those circumstances, a future in uniform can look pretty good. Starting pay for an E-1, the entry-level private or seaman, is just shy of $1,400 a month. That may sound low, but remember that the military is already covering routine expenses such as food, housing and health care. Just adding in housing can boost the “actual” salary to about $30,000 a year, noted Chief Petty Officer Matt Dooley, who heads the Longmont office.That said, a recruiting station isn’t a welfare office. Applicants have to be fit, can’t be in trouble with the law and must meet a series of other standards, including a written test. There’s an age ceiling for new recruits, too, ranging from 42 (active-duty Army) down to 27 (active-duty Air Force and Coast Guard).Given all that, a lot of walk-in applicants wash out. Nationally, Dooley said, about 72 percent of those who apply for service don’t make the cut.And it is a service, he emphasized, not just a paycheck.”If they come in here and this is their last resort, we’re going to show them the door,” Dooley said. “This should be a young man’s or young lady’s first choice for a career.”___On the Net:U.S. Air Force: http://www.airforce.comU.S. Army: http://www.goarmy.com/U.S. Marine Corps: http://www.marines.com/?WT.srch=1&WT.mc_id=G_09_US_MARINE_CORPSU.S. Navy: http://www.navy.mil/swf/index.asp