| March 19, 2020
The Illinois National Guard Recruiting Battalion Sergeants Major Johnny O'Brien talks about the struggles they have faced since the COVID-19 virus and how they are working through those struggles.
The Illinois National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion has implemented some creative ways to overcome recruiting challenges during the COVID-19 state and national emergencies.
Social distancing and school closures across Illinois have created its own set of challenges to recruiting, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Johnny O’Brien, of Sherman, Illinois, Recruiting and Retention Battalion, Illinois National Guard.
“We have not been able to get out and offer the opportunities the Illinois National Guard offers to as many people with schools closed,” O’Brien said. “In-person appointments are limited at this point, so we have been conducting a lot of our recruiting appointments via Facetime and other technologies we have available.”
O’Brien said COVID-19 has made it a little more challenging to reach people.
“We’re trying to reach as many people the best we can,” he said. “Our recruiters are available through the National Guard website and our Illinois National Guard and Recruiting Facebook platforms.”
O’Brien said there does come a time when a face-to-face meeting will have to occur.
“Once we get to a certain point in the recruiting process, we will need to schedule a time to get appropriate signatures to continue the process to the next step,” he said. “The next step in the recruiting process is the Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS.”
The Illinois National Guard uses three MEPS locations, Chicago, St. Louis, Missouri and Des Moines, Iowa, according to O’Brien.
“Each MEPS location has implemented proper screening by medical professionals before potential recruits are allowed into the building,” he said. “At this time, no visitors are allowed, so if someone were to enlist, their families are not allowed to watch them swear in.”
O’Brien stressed for those new members of the Illinois National Guard heading out to basic training, the process is the same.
“They have to go back to MEPS to be screened by medical professionals before they can ship out to their training,” he said. “And once they arrive at their basic training sites, the same screening procedures are in place at their reception stations.”
For those who may be considering becoming a member of the Illinois National Guard, O’Brien said the National Guard serves a dual mission.
“We have a federal mission and a state mission,” he explained. “Just this week, our Governor activated Soldiers and Airmen for a State Active Duty mission. This is a great chance to showcase what the Illinois National Guard is really here for. It’s great to have our Soldiers and Airmen available to help their neighbors and communities. People take pride in it. In times like this many people in the community also step up and help their neighbors, community and the overall greater good.”
There are many military jobs open to those who want to serve in the Illinois National Guard, according to O’Brien.
“Infantry, Field Artillery, Communications, Medical and Cyber Security are among our top jobs,” he said. “You name it, we have it somewhere in Illinois.”
O’Brien said that not only do you get to serve your community, state and nation, but there are some great benefits of being in the National Guard.
“Some of our jobs have an enlistment bonus of up to $20,000,” he said. “In addition, the Illinois National Guard has great education benefits and provides great job skills.”
In addition to enlistment bonuses, education benefits and job skills, O’Brien said the Illinois National Guard instills a pride in serving your country.
“No matter what you’re looking for, whether it’s job skills, education benefits or just the pride of serving your country; we can satisfy your needs,” he said.
There are many ways to talk to an Illinois National Guard recruiter while still practicing safe social distancing, according to O’Brien.
“We can be reached through the National Guard website and through the Illinois National Guard and the Illinois National Guard Recruiting Facebook pages,” he said.
The Army National Guard has several store front recruiting offices throughout Illinois which are open by appointment only. Civilians interested in enlisting in the Illinois Army National Guard should contact their local recruiter or go to www.nationalguard.com/IL for information or by telephone at (800) GO-GUARD.
A video interview and b-roll package is available at www.dvidshub.net/video/744105/recruiting-struggles-during-covid-19