PORTSMOUTH — Like so many parts of society, the U.S. Army Recruiting Office in Portsmouth has had to adjust its methods due to the coronavirus. With typical recruiting routes like visiting high schools no longer available, U.S. Army Recruiter SSG David Timmons said his staff has placed more emphasis on its social media presence.
On Facebook, the office posts daily and advertises the benefits of enlisting. Those benefits- 30 days of paid leave and a paid college education through the G.I. Bill to name a few- are making some that did not consider the military before the pandemic to do so.
“We have seen an influx of those that planned on going to college that they are looking for other, temporary options,” said Timmons, who has worked at the office for the past two years. “Parents have a real fear of paying the high amount of tuition if their kid is just going to go online.”
Timmons said there has not been any change in enlistment in the area so far and summer recruitment is not a lot different from ordinary. What could change that trend is a rise in unemployment, which could lead to more enlistments. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Ohio has the 13th-highest unemployment rate in the country, at 13.7 percent as of June 19.
The Portsmouth Daily Times reported Scioto County had the third-highest unemployment rate of Ohio’s 88 counties in 2018, sitting at 6.1%. Timmons said many in the county have taken the military route for its advantages in the past. According to the U.S. Census, there are more than 5,000 veterans living in Scioto County.
“Because of the high amount of patriotism within this area and the high unemployment rate, it tends to push the youth to at least consider the military as an option,” said Timmons.
More recently, unemployment reached a ten-year high in the county in April with a rate of 14.9 percent. While that number has dropped since, coronavirus cases are increasing. More cases could lead to another shutdown and thus increased unemployment.
If Ohio follows suit with California and Texas in halting its reopening plan, Timmons said his staff will be prepared to continue their work from home. The staff works from the office but was able to work from home during the state shutdown. Working from home pushed the office to think outside the box.
“We got very creative during the first shutdown when we were working from home,” said Timmons, who did appointments through FaceTime and Skype. “We do have those capabilities if they do end up shutting us down again to talk with interested applicants.”
Looking forward, the office will prepare its recruiting for the fall once local schools announce their plan to start the school year. Timmons said the recruiters want to be there for the community in any way possible, who have had many questions during this uncertain period.
“This may be the right time for someone to look into the military,” said Timmons. “Once this is all over, they can use the G.I. Bill and be able to go to college for free.”
The U.S. Army Recruiting Office is located at 915 7th Street in Portsmouth with office hours 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday. Their phone number is 740-354-7961.
Reach Patrick Keck (740) 237-7912 , by email at firstname.lastname@example.org , or on Twitter @pkeckreporter © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved