Special Segment: Waiting to Enlist

February 7, 2012 9:00:50 PM PST
There was a time when military recruiters couldn't get recruits in fast enough. Now it's a different ball game. Recruiters have their pick of quality applicants and those interested in a military future are typically on hold.

Some local men and women are training and competing for fitness -- and they are not even in boot camp yet. For now, they are civilians waiting and staying in shape for Marine boot camp.

"The wait time is bit longer. It's about 10 months, so they are going to have to accept that if it's something they want to do," said Sgt. Ryan Knaul, Marine recruiter.

Marines call those waiting for boot camp "poolees." They are among a pool of candidates who may become Marines if they succeed in their training. Poolees are warned they may have to wait for their shot at becoming a Marine.

Rachelle Hill was told it may take a year to get to boot camp. "When I first heard about the long wait I thought this is going to be too long a wait so i just kept going as it went along," she said.

"It's kind of a bummer, but it's worth the wait for me. I'm really excited," said Sean Tierney.

On a recent evening, poolee Brent Kuffell was scheduled to be on duty as a volunteer EMT and firefighter for a north suburban department. He had hoped to get hired fulltime by a fire department but it wasn't happening.

"People aren't leaving their jobs at the fire house and obviously cities and town are cutting back on everything with fire department and police," said Kuffell.

Kuffell says he had always thought about becoming a Marine. He has been waiting five months so far. He says the wait will be worth it for the experience and college financial assistance the Marines have to offer.

"It's a big, long waiting period for everybody," he said.

On the North Side of Chicago, Isabel Ornelas is also waiting for boot camp but with the Navy. She lives with her sister and her nieces during the wait. Even with a degree in psychology, she found few options to move ahead in the civilian world. In with the Navy, she sees possibilities to become a naval counselor.

"In the Navy, I definitely feel like there is definitely career advancement and more opportunities ? and more financial stability," Ornelas told ABC7.

So why this wait? Recruiters and scientists point to several factors at play.

Military sociologist David Segal at University of Maryland finds as youth unemployment goes up there is more interest in the military. Professor Segal also sees all branches of the military is preparing to draw down their numbers and more of those currently serving are deciding to stay in service.

Sgt. Paul Ogwal planned to return to the civilian world after serving in the Illinois National Guard. But the single dad opted to re-enlist when a full time position opened up with a promise of a raise and a promotion in rank.

"Most of the friends I went to college with are looking for jobs or out of jobs or struggling to find jobs," said Sgt. Ogwal. "I looked at the most stable position and at this time there is no company that can offer a better position than the military."

Depending on the specialty, each branch of the military says the waits can differ. The wait for the Army's basic training could be up to a year. The Navy's future sailors could be waiting a year. The Air Force delayed entry program could be eight months.