AUGUST 30, 2019 – Recruiters from across the New York Army National Guard are at the New York State Fair here, showcasing the benefits and opportunities of the Guard to the more than 70,000 daily fair goers during it’s two week run from August 21 to September 2, 2019.
The goal over the course of the two weeks is to generate 450 leads for potential candidates to enlist, out of the more than 1 million who typically visit the fair each year. This makes for the biggest recruiting event of the year, where additional Soldiers and equipment from the various units of the New York Army National Guard are brought out to support the effort.
“We’re out here at the state fair trying to capture leads from individuals 17 to 35 years old,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Poyneer, a recruiter and station commander for the Watertown area. “We are also looking for prior service members who can do a combined total of 20 years by their 60th birthday.”
Each year the recruiters try to get more of these leads, where those that are interested provide some background information in order to speak to a recruiter at a later time. For 2018, they ended the two weeks of the state fair with 397 leads, a number they are on track to double for 2019.
“We have a goal of 40 leads a day and so far we have exceeded that,” said Poyneer. “Every year I try to turn in five enlistments out of a two week fair for my Watertown area alone, which is huge.”
Recruiters such as Poyneer come to the fair from the different recruiting regions of New York but work together to recruit for all of the units of the New York Army National Guard. To make this happen at the state fair, they bring additional Soldiers and equipment in order to reach the sheer amount of people that attend the fair daily.
“We’re around 30 plus people working different shifts at this event for the whole two week period,” said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Mannara, the section chief for the Syracuse recruiting office. “We probably have close to 1,000 people I would say, who come through here from morning to night just walking through, stopping and talking to us and checking out our equipment.”
Adding a hands-on element to their fair display, a M119 howitzer, UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, M1117 Armored Security Vehicle, an explosive ordinance disposal robot and bomb suit, were setup to showcase the various career fields in the New York Army National Guard.
The preparation for this begins at least six months prior, said Manarra. He explained that it takes time to coordinate the equipment that will be on display, especially with how to land a Black Hawk at the fair and how to get it into the correct position. Along with bringing in Soldiers to work the event who can explain the equipment and the units they came from, he added.
“We’re trying to get people interested in the New York Army National Guard and in field artillery,” said Sgt. Arnan Murphy, an assistant gunner assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 258th Field Artillery Regiment headquartered in Jamaica. “I think it’s very important to be here because it gives the public a chance to see what it is we do.”
Murphy, who has been showing off the M119 howitzer to fair goers, said that the equipment on display attracted people of all ages. From children who wanted to play with it, to young adults who were interested in the National Guard and retirees who simply wanted to come by and talk about how the equipment has changed since they served.
Between the two recruiters regions, they said they each usually hold 30 to 40 recruiting events during the summer. Everything from all of the county fairs to sporting events to car shows, with each event reaching a wide variety of potential future Soldiers, they explained.
“College education,” said Manarra about what has most attracted people to the New York Army National Guard. “People come and see our equipment and say, ‘this is awesome but I don’t want to join the military full-time,’ well we offer part time, 100% to SUNY schools, and now they’re interested and the parents are interested and we have the chance to discuss our opportunities with them.”
For the recruiters, they value getting into their communities and seeing people face to face, just as much as they value getting enlistments, they explained.
“I like doing events like this because it gets you in the community,” said Poyneer. “A lot of the people who come to these events live here locally, so for us to be in the National Guard, a community based organization, it gives us a hand-in-hand relationship with them and we’ll see them every year here.”
Story by Ryan Campbell
New York National Guard