By Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Espinosa
| 81st RD | Aug. 12, 2020
At left, Capt. Caitlin Demarest Hirsch of Golden, Colorado, and on the right Capt. Rebecca Lawrence, of Tacoma, Washington, are the first Army Reserve recruiting liaison officers at the University of North Georgia in 10 years. The pair are navigating unconventional times and using unconventional methods to increase the Army Reserve cadet recruiting program on campus. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jessica Espinosa)
After a decade-long break, the Army Reserve is back at one of the top senior military universities piloting a program to recruit cadets along with the 75th Innovation Command in Houston, Texas.
The 81st Readiness Division brought on two officers to the University of North Georgia – Signal officer Capt. Caitlin Demarest Hirsch of Golden, Colorado, and Military Intelligence officer Capt. Rebecca Lawrence, of Tacoma, Washington – to lead the new recruitment initiative.
Though coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions and safety measures can block traditional recruiting methods, the duo plan to use web presence, social media, and unconventional means (like video games) to reach candidates. While higher education eventually returns to a new normal, the two will continue to use asymmetric tactics to recruit.
Flexibility is the crux of serving in the Reserve. “Young lieutenants don’t have to make such heavy compromises in future civilian career growth or family and personal obligations in the Reserve,” Hirsch said, who is a current graduate student at Purdue University.
Plus, financial aid is a huge benefit for cadets. The Army Reserve offers multi-year Minuteman Scholarships to help cadets pay little-to-no cost for their education, as well as additional stipends to cover the costs of books and uniforms. Out-of-state cadets pay in-state tuition, increasing the savings.
The UNG pilot leverages Army Reserve priorities to capitalize on advance education opportunities in critical need areas such as linguistics, geospatial and cyber to generate processes which can be replicated at other Army Reserve units and university departments throughout the country.
“The onset of the Army Reserve pilot program with UNG, the 75th Innovation Command and several additional partners aligns with the recent assumption of command by (Chief of Army Reserve and Commanding General of the Army Reserve) Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels, as this will help shape officers of tomorrow,” said 81st RD Legislative Liaison officer Col. James M. Akers, who was pivotal in igniting the new recruiting program.
One of only six senior military colleges in the United States, and the only all-Army officer producing university, UNG strives to make the school/work balance work for cadets. Staff help keep the “obligation creep” of weekend drills and annual training in check. Drilling cadets can use their training obligations like physical fitness testing, individual weapons qualification and other mandatory training toward their Army Reserve requirements.
“Cadets can focus on academics without a side job,” said Army Reserve Ambassador of Georgia, retired Maj. Gen. William Johnson, who is a UNG graduate himself. He explained that leveraging both the scholarship and their simultaneous membership program builds leader competency.
The program makes sense for the 81st RD to spearhead, as not only does UNG fall within its geographical footprint, but it’s also a good steppingstone in obtaining quality Reserve officers to eventually come into its ranks.
“Getting these two captains is huge… and all this has happened in 11 months, which is phenomenal,” Johnson said of the initiative to get the Reserve back on campus. “We’ve got to have boots on the ground if we’re going to compete with the other components.”
He added that now is the time to maximize on the momentum by adding more Reserve influence. Slots for adjunct professors, drilling instructors teaching at UNG while serving their Reserve commitment, are available. Plus, a current slot for the deputy director for cyber is available, which leadership also hope to fill with an Army Reserve officer.
UNG has a reputation for producing top-notch officers. “This university is a kingmaker,” Hirsch said regarding the fact that some 55 flag officers call UNG their alma mater.
Currently, scholarships are still available and the school is on track to open in the fall with COVID-19 safety measures in place. The Reserve Officer Training Corps program is only available at the Dahlonega campus, where cadets use the “military village,” an all-cadet dorm housing, and have access to medical care at the infirmary with coronavirus rapid testing.
Starting a new venture in 2020 comes with its challenges, but is one the pair is ready to tackle. “I’m excited to be here,” said Lawrence who graduated from the University of Washington and likens her new position to that of a platoon leader by being able to closely work with cadets on their future endeavors. “Because it’s a pilot program, we will really get to help shape how it goes. It’s almost like that Star Trek saying to ‘boldly go where no man has gone before.’”
As the two boldly go forward, the Army Reserve is sure to have UNG alumni within its ranks soon.
For more information, go to www.ung.edu/military-college-admissions/index.php.