FORT JACKSON, S.C. — Convincing young people that the Army provides opportunities is a big challenge amid headlines of military cutbacks, government furloughs and reports of sexual harassment, the new commander of the Army recruiting battalion based in South Carolina said Wednesday.
"A lot of Americans just aren't connected with the military, so we have to educate them, as well as their parents, about what the Army can provide," Lt. Col. Michael Standish said after a change-of-command ceremony at this Army training installation.
Last year, the Army Recruiting Battalion based at Fort Jackson recruited more than 3,000 civilians to become active duty soldiers. It also brought in about 500 soldiers to the Army Reserve.
The unit operates throughout South Carolina, as well as the western half of North Carolina and six counties in eastern Georgia.
Standish, 44, said one of the biggest problems recruiters face is apathy.
"We hope we find people who want to serve their country," Standish said. He added that the opportunity to gain training and help pay for a college education helps attract many into the uniformed ranks.
In spite of reports of military budget cuts and government furloughs, the Army continues to need tens of thousands of soldiers annually, Standish said.
"We have constant turnover so we have to refresh our ranks, and we have to grow those sergeants, captains and senior officers to lead them," said the Gig Harbor, Wash., native.
Asked about the most recent headlines on sexual harassment in the military, Standish said the Army has a job to do in combatting the problem.
"The Army takes this very seriously. We've stumbled and we've got to get it fixed," Standish said.
The Pentagon estimated in a recent report that as many as 26,000 military members may have been sexually assaulted last year, up from an estimated 19,000 assaults in 2011, based on an anonymous survey of military personnel.
Standish has served 21 years in the Army, during which he was deployed with I Corps in Iraq and held various posts as a chemical officer in a number of Army units.
In the ceremony Wednesday, the battalion also bade farewell to commander Lt. Col. Christopher Forsythe, who leaves for the National Defense University in the District of Columbia.