May 6, 2008

Virginia Guard end strength exceeds 8,000 Soldiers

By Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Adjutant General of Virginia, swears in new recruits at the Fort Lee MEPS April 29. Danielle Miller, far right, was the 8,000th Soldier in the Virginia Guard. (Photo by Staff Sgt. A.J. Coyne, Virginia Guard Public Affairs)

FORT LEE, Va. The Adjutant General of Virginia was on hand April 29 at the Fort Lee Military Entrance Processing Station to enlist five new Soldiers into the Virginia National Guard.

With the five enlistments by Maj. Gen. Robert B. Newman, Jr., the Virginia Guard ended the month of April with more than 8,000 members for the first time since 1994.

Danielle Miller, a senior at Kempsville High School in Virginia Beach, was the 8,000th Soldier.

“I chose the National Guard because I always wanted to do something with my life to help others,” Miller said.  “I also chose the National Guard because I see it as a way to serve my country as well as the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

“What you’re doing now is something you’re doing of your own free will,” Newman told the new recruits. “I want to thank you as a citizen of our country and as a citizen of Virginia for joining an organization that’s sole mission is to protect our way of life. It’s great to have you on board.”   

The last time the Virginia Army National Guard had more than 8,000 members was in 1994, and the end strength hit a low point in 2005 with just short of 6,900 members. Since that time, the Virginia Guard almost doubled the number of recruiters, reorganized their operation and developed new programs for recruiting Soldiers.

“This important milestone is a result of a tremendous effort on the part of our recruiters throughout the state, but also speaks highly of the young men and women who are choosing to serve the Commonwealth and our nation during a time of war,” Newman said.

“We increased our recruiters from 60 to almost 108,” said Capt. John Davis, the production commander for the Virginia Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Command. “We also reorganized and put senior noncommissioned officers out in the field where they could more effectively manage our recruiting efforts.”

Along with more recruiters, Davis said that a number of different incentive programs have also helped the efforts to get Soldiers into the Guard. National Guard Bureau doubled the enlistment bonuses being offered to be between $10,000 and $20,000 depending on the military specialty a Soldier chooses. Other programs like “Show Me The Soldier” and the Guard Recruiting Assistant Program offer incentives to Soldiers for bringing new recruits into the Virginia National Guard.

Virginia also offers full-tuition assistance for any Soldier who joins the National Guard. The General Assembly has provided enough funding for Guard Soldiers in Virginia to have tuition paid for any public school in Virginia.

In addition to having recruiters working out of National Guard Armories throughout the state, the Virginia Guard also has six “store front” recruiting offices in Virginia Beach, Newport News, Chester, Chesterfield, Woodbridge and Mount Vernon.

The Virginia Guard is authorized an end strength of 7,600, but there is an additional authorization to recruit for an end strength of 125 percent or 9,500. Davis said the Governor’s end strength mission for the Guard was 7,880.

Virginia continues to meet its recruiting goals each month and is growing on average by about 35 to 40 Soldiers each month.

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