Minnesota National Guard vaccinates recruiters to help keep schools safe

A Minnesota National Guard recruiter receives his second COVID-19 vaccination, February 25, 2021, in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. Recruiters are one of several groups in the Minnesota National Guard prioritized to receive the vaccine due to their active role in the local community. (Minnesota National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens)

February 26, 2021 (MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota) — Minnesota National Guard recruiters play an important role in their communities, volunteering with local organizations and working in local schools. As the COVID-19 pandemic has progressed, the Minnesota National Guard continues to find creative solutions to remain connected to Minnesota’s youth and communities.

“Our recruiters are active in Minnesota high schools and in communities across the state,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Rossman, commander of the Minnesota National Guard Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “Much like teachers in our schools have been offered the opportunity for early vaccination, our recruiters are being vaccinated so they can continue pursuing their mission in a safe and healthy manner around Minnesota students and in our communities.”

Recruiters were among several groups in the Minnesota National Guard prioritized to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because of their roles in the community.

The vast majority of new recruits in the Minnesota National Guard come from local Minnesota high schools. As the COVID-19 pandemic impacted area schools earlier last year, recruiters from the Minnesota National Guard stepped in by providing masks and water bottles to students, assisting schools in sanitizing classrooms and common areas and even working with teachers to provide instruction to students via zoom in physical fitness and military history.

Recruiters also had to adapt to how they interact with potential recruits. In addition to immediately issuing masks and following guidance from the State of Minnesota and the Centers for Disease Control in regards to social distancing and sanitizing work areas, recruiters now pre-screen recruits for COVID-19 prior to enlisting and prior to departing for training. Much of the training provided to recruits to prepare them for basic training is also provided online.

And while the many benefits of service in the Minnesota National Guard have remained unchanged, getting word out about National Guard pay, job training and education benefits has become more challenging. Recruiters have transitioned much of their interactions with potential recruits and their families online, but it is hard to really connect with someone over a zoom call. Minnesota National Guard recruiters look forward to being able to return to schools in the near future to meet with students and let them know about the benefits military service can provide.

“The best way to learn about the Minnesota Army National Guard is to speak with someone that is familiar with the organization,” said Rossman. “There are so many benefits and incentives available; it is hard to discuss an individual’s options before learning about their goals and why they have interest in military service.”

The Minnesota National Guard has played an active role in the last year, responding to civil unrest and the COVID-19 pandemic at an unprecedented scale. As the demand for the Minnesota National Guard increases, so too will the need for qualified individuals to serve both the state and nation in the Minnesota National Guard.