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Connecticut National Guard turns to active and retired members for help during recruiting slump

FILE, 2020: Members of the Connecticut National Guard took measurements to adhere to social distance guidelines for patients that could be moved to a mobile field hospital at Southern Connecticut State University if regional hospitals became overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.
Ryan Caron King
/
Connecticut Public
FILE, 2020: Members of the Connecticut National Guard took measurements to adhere to social distance guidelines for patients that could be moved to a mobile field hospital at Southern Connecticut State University if regional hospitals became overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases.

Members of the Connecticut National Guard can earn cash for successful recruitment leads under a new incentive program meant to increase enlistment.

Gov. Ned Lamont, commander-in-chief of the state Guard, announced the “Joint Enlistment Enhancement Program,” or JEEP, this week. It provides $500 to any Guard member, active or retired, who successfully leads a recruit to enlist or commission.

“In a competitive labor market such as this, every organization is vying for the best talent,” Lamont said in a statement. “We need to think outside of the box when it comes to recruiting, especially for our military that has been a vital resource to our state and country in times of need.”

Maj. Gen. Francis J. Evon Jr., adjutant general of the Connecticut National Guard, said a recruitment boost is sorely needed to bolster his ranks of soldiers and airmen, whose missions can run the gamut from local storm recovery to overseas deployment in war zones.

“Our nation faces the greatest disconnect between civilian society and those who serve in uniform that it has seen in the last 100 years,” Evon said in a statement. “We need creative solutions to help bridge that gap in understanding and show potential applicants who we are and what we do.”

Maj. David Pytlik, public affairs officer for the state Guard, said the reason for falling enlistment is “the million dollar question” in military circles.

“Obviously, macroeconomic factors are a huge thing,” Pytlik said. “It's a very hot job market, and everybody's looking for the best talent.”

But Pytlik also pointed to cultural factors making military service less obvious an option for young adults of enlistment age.

“If you think back to World War II or Vietnam, there's this huge draft movement, and a lot of people served,” Pytlik said. “Everybody had a brother, an uncle, a cousin, somebody that served.”

“As time has gone on, with an all-volunteer force, it's a smaller and smaller percentage of society that ever serves in the military,” he said. “And that means that there's more people that the only nexus they have for understanding what the military does is through video games or the movies.”

Pytlik said he himself never thought of joining the military until hearing directly from service members about their experiences. He said he hopes the new incentive program inspires more moments like his own.

“I really do think that education and awareness is probably our greatest resource and asset in terms of trying to get more people in the door,” Pytlik said.

The Guard also touts benefits for recruits including full in-state tuition waivers at Connecticut colleges and universities, signing bonuses, and low-cost health coverage.

Chris Polansky joined Connecticut Public in March 2023 as a general assignment and breaking news reporter based in Hartford. Previously, he’s worked at Utah Public Radio in Logan, Utah, as a general assignment reporter; Lehigh Valley Public Media in Bethlehem, Pa., as an anchor and producer for All Things Considered; and at Public Radio Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., where he both reported and hosted Morning Edition.

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