Where it all begins: New recruiting station shining example of service
Sgt. Scott Akanewich
EL MONTE, Calif. – Flags flew and banners blew in the breeze as the vibrant colors of the various service uniforms blended together in a mosaic of military tradition as the U.S. Army Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion opened their newest center Feb. 26 in El Monte, Calif.
The facility, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, is a centerpiece for the community and is vital to maintain recruiting goals as the Army transitions to 21st century technology to attract young men and women to fill the ranks, said 1st Sgt. Eric Blyberg, San Gabriel Valley Recruiting Command.
“This is the first sign of modernization and an example of what the Army wants to achieve in its recruiting efforts,” said Blyberg, the center’s senior noncommissioned officer. “We’ve incorporated video games, LCD televisions and the new color scheme.”
A far cry from when Blyberg enlisted in his native Cincinnati in 1995, he said.
“I remember it was a two-man station with no computers and broken tiles,” said Blyberg. “What we have here makes it that much more attractive and goes hand-in-hand with the Army’s objective of recruiting the best and brightest.”
According to Blyberg, the entire recruiting process has been streamlined with the new technology offered by the new centers.
“For example, we have the ability to fingerprint prospective recruits right here, as opposed to having to send them to the Military Entrance Processing Station,” he said.
Another revolutionary change is the consolidation of the command’s six smaller recruiting stations to three larger centers, which provides more recruiters to work together as one cohesive unit in a team-based environment, said Blyberg.
“What this allows us to achieve is to have centralized leadership and execute small-unit recruiting,” he said. “We have an engagement team, whose mission is strictly to go out and visit local high schools and the general public in order to generate interest from potential soldiers. We also have a support team dedicated to the administrative side of the process, as far as building packets for recruits and a future soldier leader who runs the Delayed Entry Program.”
Staff Sgt. Steve Gonzalez also acknowledged the advantages the new center has over their previous location, but also highlighted the most crucial element to its success.
“Our old office was kind of hidden, so this new location is great because we’re able to bring a lot more people in,” said Gonzalez. “But, it’s really the people we have here that make the difference.”
On hand for the proceedings and ribbon-cutting was Maj. Gen. Megan P. Tatu, 79th Sustainment Support Command, commanding general, who began her remarks with a bit of a history lesson.
“Today marks the last grand opening for the Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion and I understand they have done everything in their power to make this the best grand opening,” said Tatu. “From its headquarters in Encino, the Los Angeles Recruiting Battalion directs and manages the U.S. Army’s ongoing operation to fill the ranks with dedicated, energetic young men and women. Since 1964, the Los Angeles Battalion has been responsible for the key population center stretching from the Los Angeles/Orange County border north to Santa Clarita, which today encompasses over 9,000,000 residents. For almost 50 years, the battalion has lived its mission statement by recruiting with integrity the highest quality men and women into the U.S. Army.”
Tatu then made a succinct point to those gathered beneath the clear blue Southern California sky.
“Recruiting is literally where it all begins,” said Tatu. “Countless Army careers will begin through those doors behind me. Who knows? Walking through those doors for the first time may be a future sergeant major of the Army or Medal of Honor recipient.”
Finally, she had a word for the recruits standing before her in formation.
“Finally, to the recruits: This is the first step in your Army journey. Whether you finish out your initial obligation and move out on another path, or you stay for a 30-year career, it was here you took your first step onto a path blazed 238 years ago by men and women who loved their country,” said Tatu. “You are part of an honored and honorable tradition and it was at a recruiting center you became part of that story.”
Blyberg succinctly summed up the role of the new center and others like it.
“This is the way of the future,” he said. “It’s the best way to take care of both soldiers and recruits.”