Go Army? Aspen students not so sure
Representatives from the U.S. Army were at Aspen High School on Tuesday for one of their monthly visits, but aside from checking out free pencils and key chains, not many students stopped by the recruitment table.”It’s not any different at any other school, but we come out to educate the kids on the benefits,” said Sgt. Mark Juliano, from the U.S. Army’s Glenwood Springs recruitment office. “Generally three to five people from the Roaring Fork area join every month.”The Army’s newest tactic for reaching out to the valley’s young people is a potential partnership with the Aspen Valley Ski and Snowboard Club. Ayla Angelo, 15, an Aspen High School sophomore and AVSC snowboarder, is in talks with Juliano to receive Army-branded equipment, and to speak on behalf of the Army at the high school, AVSC and other youth events.The U.S. Army currently sponsors a NASCAR Chevrolet, and if the agreement goes through, Angelo would be the first snowboarder to receive a similar sponsorship from the Army. According to Nancy Marquardt from the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion in Denver, the Army sees youth sports programs as dovetailing with Army goals, including combating juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy and smoking.One of the recruiters at Aspen High yesterday was a 2004 graduate from Glenwood Springs High. Pvt. Andy Libberton recently finished 16 weeks of basic training with the Army in Fort Sill, Okla.”I really wanted to go to college – my mom is a single parent, and the Army will give me $50,000 for college when I get out in three years,” he said.He said that participating in the recruitment program allows him to come back to his hometown without using leave time.Before he left for basic training, Libberton helped in recruiting efforts at high schools in Leadville, Frisco, Eagle and Glenwood. He’ll soon leave for Fort Campbell, Ky., where he hopes to train for air assaults.He said he used to be worried about the possibility of being sent to Iraq, but during basic training he realized he would be happy to fight for the United States – a change of heart he can share with students.”I think it helps that I’m someone who was just where [the students are],” he said. “I think everyone should look into it because of the benefits. There are lots of ways to be a soldier in the Army, like being medical, or part of the National Guard. You can even do laundry for the Army.”These days, benefits to joining the Army include up to $70,000 for college, signing bonuses of up to $20,000, and training in more than 200 jobs. There are also bonuses for Middle-Eastern language translator aides, people who speak or want to learn those languages, and bonuses for college credits and any civilian skills someone already has that the Army needs.A number of Aspen High students said they wouldn’t consider joining the army, saying that they know a number of kids who are interested, but that it’s just not for them.”If I got drafted I’d probably move to Canada,” said Breton Lujan, a junior. “It’s not just because of Iraq. With every war, I’d never want to do that.”Sophomore Jordan Karlinski said she thinks probably one in every 10 kids at Aspen High School would consider joining the Army, but she wouldn’t.On the other hand, senior Taylor Ferguson, 17, said he’s always wanted to join the Army, and it’s something he thinks about doing every day. He stopped by the recruitment table during lunchtime to pick up some more Army pencils and say hello to Juliano.”It’s just something I want to do for the experience,” Ferguson said, though he added he has mixed feelings about this country’s commander in chief.”[Enlisting] is something I’ll have to think about,” he said, adding that he might go to college first, meaning that the nation will have a different president, regardless of next month’s election, by the time he joins the Army.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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A recent survey of Aspen residents shows that people are happy here, feel safe but are financially insecure.