As jobs become more uncertain, recruits get older

Colorado Army National Guard recruiter Justin Lee pitches at GJHS

Ryan Greager has a job. Tomorrow, he admitted, he might not. The uncertainty is tiresome.

On Thursday, Greager walked into the local Colorado National Guard recruiting office to talk about the benefits of joining the military. At 28, Greager is older than traditional military recruits, who are between 18 and 22, said National Guard Staff Sgt. Bryan Stephen.

But an increasing number of men and women 25 and older have been trying to enlist in all branches of the military in recent months because of the stable paycheck and medical benefits the military offers, Stephen and other military representatives said last week.

America’s uncertain economy is among the top reasons adults give for enlisting, Stephen said.

Greager has worked for Roustabout Specialties in Grand Junction for nearly 18 months, “doing anything and everything” in the oil and gas industry. About four months ago, Greager said he noticed industry colleagues started losing their jobs when the number of rigs used in the area was cut back.

Greager has not been laid off, but the job that once guaranteed him 80 hours a week isn’t as needed. He is paid hourly, so he enjoyed the 40 hours of overtime pay per week.

“If I keep my job, will I have enough work?” he asked.

Greager’s wedding is in less than a month. He has a young son. He wants more income and health benefits.

“What can I do to get what I want and need and still be in the area?” Greager asked Staff Sgt. Justin Lee, a recruiter with the National Guard, during their visit Thursday.

“There are a ton of jobs in the National Guard right now,” Lee told Greager.

A decade ago, Greager said, he would have wanted to be on active duty in a heartbeat.

With a family,  he no longer wants to pick up and leave everyone behind, which is why the National Guard is his best fit, he said.

Greager would serve one weekend a month and two full weeks a year at a minimum as part of his commitment to the Colorado National Guard.

His medical benefits would cost him $180 a month for his entire family. Greager likely would make more than $1,500 a month and may be entitled to a signing bonus based on the job he chooses in the National Guard.

Greager has to go through basic training if he enlists. He seemed ready to go to boot camp Thursday.

Greager wanted to join the military after high school graduation but never did.

“Where I am now is not where I want to be,” Greager said.

Down the hall from Lee’s office at the National Guard armory on 28 Road, Stephen works with people who want to extend their National Guard commitments or rejoin.

Within the past two weeks, several former soldiers have asked Stephen about rejoining, he said.

In an AutoZone store Thursday, two men approached Stephen about enlisting in the National Guard.

Stephen estimated 30 to 50 people in each of Grand Junction’s two National Guard units are older than 30. Stephen did not say how many people are in each unit.

“Two years ago, I didn’t see it a whole lot. It was young men and women,” Stephen said.

Regardless of the military branch a person joins, the potential to go to war, be deployed overseas or serve undetermined amounts of time when a disaster strikes go along with all the attractive benefits.

“It’s a sacrifice to be a soldier,” Lee said.

Recruits have to meet a list of enlistment standards. There also are age limits depending on the branch, said representatives from the National Guard, U.S. Army and U.S. Navy.

At least one in every four people who walks through Petty Officer 1st Class Adam Welsh’s door in Grand Junction is an adult older than 22 wanting to enlist in the Navy, he said.

Welsh, 27, is a local recruiter, and he said he was going to leave the Navy two months ago but changed his mind.

“For me and my family, the benefits you really can’t beat,” he said.

Welsh and his wife are expecting their second child soon. It cost Welsh a mere $9 to have his first daughter because of the Navy’s medical benefits.

The cost to have a child can be in the thousands, depending on factors such as insurance coverage and type of birth.

“If someone wants to join, we’ll do everything we can to get them in as long as they meet the qualifications,” said Welsh, who added the Navy really needs Special Forces members
and people with construction interest.

“You have a stable paycheck regardless of whether you work 80 or five hours a week.”

Debbie Cannon, a spokeswoman in the Army’s Denver office, said adults looking to enlist or rejoin the Army are a “hot topic” because of the economy.

In turn, not everyone who wants to join the Army is able to for various reasons, but she encouraged anyone interested in joining or returning to the military to visit a local office and ask questions.

She said the Army is hiring in more than 150 job areas.


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