Tennessee Army National Guard pushing for new members

The Tennessee Army National Guard (TNG) is seeking an additional 2,300 new members to enter their ranks.
   According to Lt. Col. Bill Wenzler, Tennessee's Commander of Recruiting and Retention, "Success in the recruiting arena is an essential part of keeping Tennessee positioned as the nation's 7th largest National Guard force."
   "We started this current fiscal year with 10,700 soldiers in the TNG but we are pushing hard to bring our strength back to over 12,000 soldiers.
   "The Volunteer State has a long tradition of service and we're counting on that volunteer spirit to boost the strength posture of the TNG," Wenzler said.
   Coming off a six-year high in recruiting among their primary market, age 17 to 24-year-olds with no prior service, Wenzler is optimistic about reaching the goal.
   "It's gratifying to see so many young Tennesseans step forward and offer their service to the TNG," said Wenzler.
   Just 30 days into the new fiscal year, Tennessee is already showing signs of another record year with a 105 percent increase over the same period last year.
   While there are many interested in the bonuses and college benefits offered by the Army Guard, Wenzler said that most young people simply want to know how they can help.
   "They know our National Guard soldiers are motivated and highly involved in the current Homeland Defense initiatives, and they want to help do their part," said Wenzler.
   "Anyone who thinks our young Tennesseans aren't motivated to serve, needs to take a look at the typical 19-year-olds joining our team.
   "It's incredible and demonstrates something we've known all along: Our young adults want to serve-especially in a capacity that has a direct affect on their local community and the lives of their fellow Tennesseans."
   As other branches of service appear to be placing less emphasis on enlisting prior-service veterans, TNG depends on recently separated soldiers to make up about half of their new members.
   Wenzler indicated that recent veterans from the Active Army continue to be their single largest source of prior-service accessions, but almost 23 percent of their prior service applicants have recently served in the Marine Corps, Navy, or Air Force.
   Wenzler said, "The vast majority of recently separated veterans are eligible to keep their current rank, and many are eligible for the 'Try One' in the Guard Option; allowing them to join for just one year; then opting for a potential reenlistment bonus at the end of the year.
   "I can't overemphasize," Wenzler said, "that if you're a qualified veteran and have recent service in the Armed Forces, then we need you to consider joining our team in the TNG. The experience and dedication brought by Tennessee veterans is what makes our Army National Guard service a unique and successful force."
   Wenzler's Executive Officer, Major Eric Goslowsky, said that another critical part of their new recruiting efforts will come through Tennessee's Interstate Transfer Coordinator and their Reserve Component Transition Recruiter.
   "When a current member serving in another state's Army National Guard relocates to Tennessee, they need assistance in finding and transferring to one of our units.
   "These Interstate Transfer (IST) soldiers are guided through the process by telephonic coordination from our recruiting headquarters."
   Goslowsky said that Tennessee expects to gain approximately 250-300 soldiers through the IST process, while an additional 150-200 soldiers are expected to join through the Reserve Component Transition (RCT) process. The RCT program enlists soldiers as they depart from the Active Army and are seeking to continue their service with their local Tennessee Army National Guard.
   Trying to capitalize on high traffic/high visibility locations, Goslowsky said that the TNG has also opened five "Recruiting Storefront" locations.
   "We looked at some of our larger markets across Tennessee and then established storefront offices in the Memphis (Bartlett) area, as well as Jackson, Franklin, Clarksville and Cleveland." Goslowsky said that it's important for the public to realize the local National Guard Armory is not the only place to visit with the local National Guard Recruiting and Retention Representatives.
   Pushing hard for another record year, Wenzler said that it's critical that we educate our fellow Tennesseans about their potential to serve with their local Army National Guard. We've got over 10,700 soldiers in this force, but we need to take dramatic steps to increase beyond the 12,000 level.
   Currently, Tennessee continues to be one of the largest "Guard States" in the nation, and Wenzler indicated that additional members are required to maintain that level.
   "While lots of new members will tell you they initially joined to take advantage of the pay, bonuses, and college benefits, we know that's not what makes them stay.
   "It's about service to community, state, and nation-something that Tennesseans have always known." Those interested in additional information about the TNG should meet with their local National Guard representative or get the telephone number by calling 1-800-GO-GUARD or visiting www.1800goguard.com.