Seven years ago, Justin Rogerson began nine weeks of basic training in the Army.
Fast-forward to now and the North Ridgeville native has service in the military including a year in Iraq training Iraqi soldiers and military police, and two re-enlistments.
He is now an Army recruiter focused on Northeast Ohio. To hear the 25-year-old sergeant talk, he’s just paying it forward.
“I’ve put in (recruited) a number of people who have all come back to thank me for helping them to change their lives and to be a supportive influence in their lives,” Rogerson said.
Rogerson, and Katie, his wife of nine years, and the couple’s 2-year-old son, Liam, are back in Northeast Ohio after having lived in other parts of the U.S., as well as Germany and Ireland.
There was never a question as to where Rogerson wanted to be assigned.
“You rank up to nine different preferences as to where you want to be assigned,” Rogerson said. “It can be all over the world, but I chose the Cleveland recruiting battalion because Katie and I are both from North Ridgeville, and I wanted my son to have a relationship with his grandparents here. My decision was 100 percent family-oriented.”
The family now lives in Wooster, while Rogerson works with an Army recruiting office in Cleveland.
Rogerson joined the Army in July 2007 with fellow North Ridgeville High School grad and football teammate Jeremy Howells.
After his five-year commitment was completed in 2012, Howells left the Army to return to North Ridgeville and a job as a corrections officer at Grafton Correctional Institution, according to Rogerson, who remained in the service.
Stationed with the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, Ky. following his first re-enlistment, Rogerson later was assigned to Washington, D.C., where the former military police officer was tabbed to become a recruiter.
“The Army takes the top 10 percent of all MPs (military police) or any other unit of the Army to be recruiters,” Rogerson said.
Selection is based on grades on various exams, as well as good marks on a battery of other evaluations.
As a recruiter, Rogerson searches for young men and women by way of interviews at his offices, or at scores of high schools he visits.
Finding qualified candidates isn’t the tough job. It’s telling those who want to enlist but are deemed ineligible that they cannot.
Current rules bar those with inappropriate or poorly located tattoos from joining.
“The Army just changed its policy regarding tattoos,” Rogerson said. “We know they’re big and everybody gets them, but you cannot have more than four tattoos below the knees or elbows, and they have to be smaller than your hand.”
The change is in keeping with the Army’s efforts to promote a more professional image.
Another challenge to recruiting is insufficient scores on tests given to all prospective recruits.
“Kids are tested in different areas, and a lot struggle in different areas,” Rogerson said. “Math is particularly hard for them.”
Those who need help are directed to a website geared more toward high school grads planning to go to college, Rogerson said.
“There’s a lot of study material there designed to help with SATs and ACTs,” Rogerson said.
Once recruits join up, many are deciding to remain in the Army beyond the standard eight-year obligation that includes two years of active duty.
“Given the economy, it’s mainly the job security,” Rogerson said.
The most common misconception of the Army held by potential recruits, Rogerson said, is a fear of physical abuse.
“Kids are afraid of someone throwing them across a table or putting their hands on them,” Rogerson said.
“I tell them that isn’t allowed … that’s Hollywood … what they’ve seen in movies,” Rogerson said. “They find ways to motivate you other than by physical abuse.’’
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.