Brockton Area College Students Turning to Military for Education and Work Skills
April 03, 2010
By Katherine Landergan '12
Special to the Enterprise
Blaze Montelo had made it to the final round of police training at Bridgewater State College when the college police chief told him his criminology degree from Bridgewater State just wouldn't cut it.
"He said I would need more training and skill as an individual to stand out, not just an education," said Montelo of Middleboro.
So, Montelo did what thousands of other college grads are doing: He signed up for the Army.
Montelo is part of a growing trend of young college students who are joining the military to help pay for an education, land a job after graduation and serve their country.
"It's a resume booster," said Robert Rosenthal, chairman of the Stonehill College economics department. "A lot of companies consider (military service) valuable when screening applicants."
According to the Pentagon:
The number of armed-forces enlistees with bachelor degrees rose from about 5,400 in 2008 to more than 6,400 last year.
The number of new recruits with associate degrees from community colleges also went up, from about 2,380 to 2,570.
Rosenthal said the numbers would be higher if there weren't wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Some people may be motivated by patriotism," Rosenthal said. "But others who have questions about (the war) or their own safety are choosing not to enlist."
In his address to Congress last March, Curtis Gilroy, the Pentagon director of recruiting policy, attributed high recruitment rates to the economic slump.
"Generally, times like this make recruiting less challenging," Gilroy told Congress. "And a regrettable trend in national unemployment operates to the advantage of those who are hiring, including the U.S. military."
According to a budget proposal by the U.S. Army, scholarships and stipends make up more than half of the Pentagon Reserve Officers' Training Corps budget. In 2007, the federal government allocated $173 million for ROTC scholarships nationwide.
Locally, the Bravo Company, an ROTC program based at Stonehill College, has nearly doubled its enrollment in the past two years. In 2008, the company served 31 students, and this year 57 students are enrolled.
Bravo Company is affiliated with the 140-cadet Charles River Battalion at Boston University and covers Stonehill College, Bridgewater State College, Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Curry College, Massasoit Community College and Eastern Nazarene College.
Montelo, a graduate of both the Bravo Company and junior ROTC program at Taunton High School, is currently pursuing his master's degree at Bridgewater State College, paid in full by the ROTC. Montelo said the money was just an added bonus.
"The Army offers the training for more skills and to become more marketable in the world," Montelo said. "I was already on track, but I needed something more for myself and my career."
Aaron Brown, a sophomore at Stonehill College, said free college tuition played a big role in his decision to join the Bravo Company. He was a member of the junior ROTC at Brockton High School, and received a four-year college scholarship offer from the ROTC.
"It seemed foolish not to take it," Brown, of Brockton, said.
Brown, a criminology major, said his military service should help him become a firefighter. He noted the civil service gives veterans extra points on firefighter entrance exams.
"You get the training that a lot of jobs are looking for," Brown said. "It's another thing to put on a resume to make you stand out from other people."
Kellyanne McLaughlin, also a member of the junior ROTC at Brockton High School, said she would be at a state school if the ROTC were not paying her tuition. She receives four years of free education, $1,200 a year for books and a stipend each month.
McLaughlin, now a nursing student at Curry College in Milton, said the Army is all about job security.
"I'm going to have a job as soon as I'm done with school," she said. "I'll have the upper hand over all my friends."
Andrew Capachione, the only Bravo Company member from Massasoit Community College, said military service offers two financial payoffs.
Not only will he receive a commission, but Capachione said being an Army officer could help him become a Drug Enforcement Administration officer later in life.
"The Army will help me learn all the tactics I need," Capachione said. "The experience I get won't be like anything in the civilian world."
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