Before they graduated in May from Earlham College, Seth Shipley said his friends were stressing out about finding jobs.
He, on the other hand, landed a job months before graduation — with the Marine Corps.
When he leaves for boot camp this fall, the Shawnee High School graduate will become part of the area’s deep legacy of military service.
And, whether the economy is good or bad, whether we’re fighting a war or not, Uncle Sam is always hiring.
Between fiscal-years 2009 and 2011, 488 Clark and Champaign countians joined active-duty service, according to information obtained by the Springfield News-Sun from the four branches.
While the 2012 numbers aren’t yet finalized, local recruiters say the Springfield area — and middle America in general — is a good place to find a few good men and women.
“We’re not hurting for people at all,” said Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Quentin J. Bolin, the noncommissioned officer in charge of recruiting offices in Springfield, Bellefontaine and west Columbus.
In that three-year period, 163 local recruits chose the Marines, 142 went into the Army, 96 enlisted in the Air Force and 87 signed on with the Navy.
It’s easy to assume they joined because of the economy, but the reasons new recruits give for joining the military in 2012 aren’t unlike the reasons given by previous generations of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines.
Some want to challenge themselves. Some want to see the world. Some are following in the footsteps of fathers and grandfathers.
“I couldn’t stand sitting behind a desk,” confessed Shipley, who graduated this past spring with a degree in business management from Earlham in Richmond, Ind., after a couple of internships, including one at Sweet Manufacturing in Springfield.
A longtime football player, including his time at Earlham, Shipley was attracted to the military for the brotherhood.
To him, the Marines stood out even further. Not to mention his dad was in the corps.
After boot camp — which he and others prepare for every Wednesday evening at a grueling, two-hour physical training session outside the North Limestone Street recruiting office — he’ll be assigned to intelligence as a cryptologic linguist.
“There’s a courageousness that’s portrayed by the Marine Corps,” Shipley said. “If you see a Marine, they seem fearless. That’s what I want to be.”
It’s been a while since the military’s active-duty forces couldn’t meet recruiting goals. In fact, the Army frequently surpasses its goal. In fiscal-year 2009, for example, the Army needed 65,000 new recruits and ended up with 70,045 — 108 percent of its goal, according to Defense Department statistics.
That year, the Army received 49 recruits from Springfield and six from Urbana.
As of Aug. 23, the Army was at 101 percent of its fiscal-year 2012 goal, with 47,817 new recruits.
Donald Herth, chief of advertising and public affairs for the Army’s Columbus recruiting battalion, said all of Ohio is prime recruiting territory.
“Middle America’s great,” said Herth, who has been in Army recruiting since 1988. “You’ve got people with great values, and values that match up with Army values.”
The way Midwesterners are brought up, he explained, makes them good soldiers.
“People have been raised to believe in a bit of self-reliance and a bit of ruggedness,” Herth said. “The overall lifestyle is conducive to receiving our message.”
More so than in other parts of the country.
“I recruited out in California,” he said, “and there were clearly factions that were anti-military. You don’t really have that here.”
Corrine Miller, 19, a 2011 graduate of Graham High School, wanted to join the military from the age of 10. After researching the branches, she finally settled on the Marines and leaves for boot camp this month.
“I knew if I could officially become a Marine and achieve this goal,” she said, “I could achieve any goal I set for myself.”
The down economy of recent years has, however, played to the military’s advantage. Local Air Force recruiters say the economy is a big driver of people to their office.
“What we bring to the table is a very good benefits package and good pay,” said Tech. Sgt. Adam Sorrell, a recruiter at the Air Force’s North Limestone Street office. “We’re offering them a guaranteed job for four to six years.”
That appealed to Stacy Brimmer, a 17-year-old senior at Springfield High School. She signed up this past spring to join the Air Force after graduation.
Part of her is doing it because of family history. Her father was in the Army for 12 years. Another part wants the job security.
“I want a structured life,” Brimmer said. “I don’t want to think, ‘Is my job safe?’ “
Brandon Vandette, 19, has delivered pizza since graduating this year from Emmanuel Christian Academy. He leaves for Air Force basic training in November.
“The military offers more benefits than jobs out here do,” he said.
About one in 20 local Air Force recruits has a bachelor’s degree and can’t find work anywhere else, Sorrell said.
“There’s just no jobs here,” said Staff Sgt. David Listermann, another Air Force recruiter at the Springfield office.
But, with one war ended and another coming to an end, the requirements to join any branch of the military are getting harder, the recruiters say.
It’s more difficult than ever for someone with a GED to join. Tattoos are a big disqualifier to join the Marines.
“It’s more of a hiring process these days. You’re coming in for a job interview,” Listermann said.
While it seems new recruits have very personal reasons for joining the military, the post-9/11 generation is also very patriotic, said the Army’s Herth.
“If you really ask the right questions and peel the layers of the onion back,” he said, “you’d find that a lot of these kids joined because they feel they owe something to their country and want to give something back.”
Jerell Ragland, a 2009 graduate of Springfield High, who leaves for Marine Corps boot camp in December, is one of them.
“I believe in America,” Ragland said. “And I believe in fighting for it.”