A New Army Recruit's Reasons for Enlisting
MIKE PESCA, host:
The U.S. Army has reached its goal of recruiting 80,000 new enlistees for this fiscal year, which ends tomorrow.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
In a ceremony in New York, Army brass made a show of Recruit Number 80,000. She is Shirley Salvi, 23 years old and a graduate of Rutgers University. Most Army recruits are not college grads. Just seven percent have degrees. And here are some more statistics. The Army is about 70 percent white and more than 85 percent male.
PESCA: Eighteen-year-old Amanda Gillenger of Killeen, Texas, has just signed up. She's the daughter of two parents with military backgrounds. Amanda says she signed up for some pretty common reasons.
Ms. AMANDA GILLENGER (Army Recruit): College is expensive nowadays, and I want to be a doctor. So I joined so that I can gain experience in other fields that also pay for my college.
PESCA: I asked Amanda if her recruiter talked much about Iraq?
Ms. GILLENGER: That was a topic at first, until I picked the job that I was doing, because my job - I'm battalion support - so I support Fort Hood when Fort Hood MPs go over to Iraq. So I don't have to go to Iraq. And when I go to college and be in ROTC in college, I will not be deployable.
PESCA: And so did they tell - did they guarantee you that you wouldn't be going to Iraq? Or did they say this is the best plan but it call could change?
Ms. GILLENGER: Pretty much. I mean it's the best plan but it could change at any moment.
PESCA: So you're going into the Army. Would you be surprised if you ever have to go to Iraq?
Ms. GILLENGER: No. Eventually, I'll have to go, and that's just something I'll have to deal with.
PESCA: And did that weigh upon your decision a lot? I mean, if we weren't fighting a war in Iraq, would your decision have been any easier, or was it pretty easy to begin with?
Ms. GILLENGER: I don't think it would have mattered any, because - I mean my mom's in Iraq right now. I mean I already have experience with deploying and all that kind of thing. But one tour, a year in Iraq, is nothing compared to how much better my life will be if I get to be a doctor, which the Army is helping me do.
PESCA: What has your mom told you about Iraq? Did she say anything like this is place to avoid if you can?
Ms. GILLENGER: We don't really talk about it a lot. But the worst part about her being over there, I think, to her is that she's not here with us. You know?
Ms. GILLENGER: It's the separation part of it. I mean, yeah, I'm sure it's scary, and she's called a couple of times and has been upset. But of most of the time I don't think it's too bad.
PESCA: Do you know off the top of your head how many people - how many Americans have died in Iraq?
Ms. GILLENGER: No, I don't.
PESCA: Is that something that you want to know or do you want to keep that out of the back of your mind?
Ms. GILLENGER: I would rather not know, just because it makes me worry less.
Ms. GILLENGER: Yeah. Like I believe in God very much, you know. I'm a very religious person. And I believe that no matter where you are, what you're doing, if it's your time to go, you go. So I think there's no point in trying to figure out statistics when statistics don't matter.
PESCA: Do you consider yourself a patriotic person?
Ms. GILLENGER: Yes. I mean, I love the United States. It's given me all that I have now, and the Army is giving me my future. So how can I not love it?
PESCA: Do you consider yourself a brave person?
Ms. GILLENGER: No. No, I don't.
PESCA: So - what? You're looking at the Army as a chance to become brave? Or do you worry if you're going to be brave enough for some of the things you might have to face?
Ms. GILLENGER: Sometimes I worry if I'm going to be able to stand up and do what I've got to do, just because I'm not that brave. And - but I think that if I really put my mind to it, I can do anything. So if I try and something happens and I can't do it, at least I know that I tried.
PESCA: Amanda Gillenger is a high school senior from Killeen, Texas. She's enlisted in the Army, one of 80,000 enlistees that the Army signed up this year.
Amanda, thanks and good luck.
Ms. GILLENGER: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.