Where there’s a Fairfield Warde student with ambition — towards anything from a NASA internship to a free Billy’s Bakery cannoli — the American armed forces are seeking to put their talents to good use. On Friday, March 18th, representatives from the Army, Navy, Coast Guard, Marines, and Army/Air National Guard held a military fair in the school cafeteria during all three lunch waves. Students were encouraged to do push-ups, browse a plethora of different brochures, and enter their names onto the signup list present at each Fair station. Petty Officer Richard Puello, presenter for the U.S. Coast Guard, remarked that Fairfield Warde had the greatest military academy and enlistment interest out of the three schools he toured. Yet in spite of the representatives’ charismatic demeanors and colorful pamphlets, their main appeal missed its mark: for most Warde Students, the economic incentive of a military career is not incentive enough.
Forlum, who was born into a low-income family, stated that the military “changed [his] life financially, and [gave him] way more opportunities than if [he] didn’t join,” a sentiment echoed by Sergeant Garcia of the U.S. Navy. Garcia, who is also from a low-income socioeconomic background, joined the armed forces to avoid indebting himself after four years of college. Signing up for the nuclear power program has provided Garcia two houses without a mortgage, along with an $100,000 bonus from the Department of Defense should he re-enlist (An offer which he is not planning to take). With the average household income in Fairfield today at $206,764, a statistic reflected in the majority of Fairfield Warde’s student population, it is not a surprise that the military fair’s overemphasis of economic benefits to enlistment fell largely flat. In fact, such emphasis stirred resentment in a few student body members, one of which anonymously explained it was “kind of weird how [recruitment officers] use[d] college as a coercion method to get people to join the army.”
While education and financial assistance dominated the brochures and conversation of the military fair presentations, presenters occasionally did stress the importance of values in academy training as well, values which aligned with the morals of students considering the military career path. Sergeant Shannon Tseizer of the Army National Guard shared that, when looking for persons to recruit for service, she wanted them to “aspire to be something bigger than themselves, to challenge themselves, to further their education.” Educational promotion aside, her desire was fulfilled by Warde student James Cunningham, who was unique in his overwhelmingly positive impression of the fair. He seeks to potentially join the military because “it is desirable and honorable to be a part of something bigger than oneself [which upholds] the principles of our nation.” Cunningham claimed to view enlistment as his way of “giving back” in thanks for the privileges he has been granted in life, a thought process that may account for the facet of the Warde population which is actively interested in joining the armed forces.
Whether or not the military fair was ultimately successful in recruiting a large cross-section of Warde students, there is no doubt that the style in which it was done certainly garnered attention — just not for very long. Economic recruitment strategies are effective in the low-income neighborhoods that the military is known for most frequently targeting; however, such tactics do little for the general apathy and ambivalence towards enlistment at Fairfield Warde. Should officers visiting the school wish to see their sign-up sheets filled with more blue ink, it is clear they will have to aim for the heartstrings.