March 25, 2016 (MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota) — Minnesota is the 21st largest state in population, but the state has the 6th largest National Guard organization in the country. With more than 13,000 Soldiers and Airmen in communities throughout the state, recruiting and retaining the best individuals is important to ensuring the Minnesota National Guard remains always ready to answer the call to the state and nation.
“Each year we provide the opportunity for approximately 1,700 people to join the Minnesota Army National Guard and serve their great state and country,” said Lt. Col. Michael Pazdernik, commander of the Minnesota National Guard’s Recruiting and Retention Battalion.
This year, as in past years, Minnesota Army National Guard recruiters have set individual and team goals for the number of new Soldiers to bring into the organization. These goals help keep the organization on track to maintaining the correct balance of personnel as normal attrition takes place through retirements and separations.
“We are on track and the way we continue to have our success is we get out and get in front of as many people as we can, educate them on the opportunities that we have here in Minnesota in the national guard and ask them to join,” said Pazdernik.
With 83 recruiters in 58 communities around the state, the Minnesota National Guard can reach out to under-served communities in both the metro and rural areas.
“Our recruiters are assigned to every zip code in the state,” said Maj. Ryan Kelly, deputy commander of the Recruiting and Retention Battalion. “We get in front of those young Minnesotans regardless of their economic or ethnic background and expose them to the opportunities that service in the National Guard brings.”
The benefits of military service can have a significant impact on those who might not otherwise have the means or opportunities to pursue their goals in life.
“For us the focus is not on the diversity, it’s on inclusion,” said Pazdernik. “It’s on getting out there and finding anyone who is eligible, who has a desire to serve, and then giving them that chance. And then you watch people grow; you watch people excel; you watch what happens when you provide them resources and tools that maybe they didn’t have access to before.”
In recent months, all positions in the Minnesota National Guard have been opened to women. Female recruiters are now more important than ever in reaching out to women who are interested in filling positions that might not have been available to them in the past.
“I had the opportunity in the 1990s to see what it was like not to be able to progress your career because you were stuck in an MOS or a job that you couldn’t move forward in,” said Staff Sgt. Carinda Horton, a Duluth recruiter whose daughter has also just enlisted in the Minnesota National Guard. “Now this new group of people who are able to join are going to have all those opportunities and that way they can choose a job that they want. They can find something in a line unit that they can do that will allow them to progress their career.”
According to Pazdernik, the success of the recruiting battalion comes not just from having great recruiters, but also from living in a state where so many citizens are willing to step forward to serve.
“In the National Guard there’s something that really distinguishes us from our active duty counterparts,” said Pazdernik. “We live here, we work here, we serve here. We are members of our community; we take a lot of pride in our organization and we believe people want to be part of something great.”
by Master Sgt. Blair Heusdens
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs