By Steven Donald Smith
HOLLYWOOD, Calif., Aug. 22, 2006 – Hollywood Boulevard may be better known for its glitzy Walk of Fame and seedy nightlife than as a place to recruit servicemembers, but the Armed Forces Career Center here is signing up recruits aplenty. "Wherever there's a lot of foot traffic, it's good for a recruiting station," said Sgt. 1st Class Bryan Williams, the Army's station commander here.
People who never previously thought about joining the military see the Hollywood recruiting station and stroll in with questions, Williams said. Since the station is located in a high tourist and transient area, about 40 percent of its recruits reside outside of California. The station also generates untold numbers of recruits for other stations, he said "What this office does is embed the Army in tourists' minds. They may stop in on vacation and go home and think about it more," Williams said. "The person might not join at this station, but they may join at another station in another state just by visiting here."
As an example, he referred to a young Farsi-speaking couple at the station Aug. 18 talking to a recruiter about enlisting. Linguists are in high demand, especially Farsi and Arabic speakers, Williams said. "They're looking to make a difference with their life," he said. "They haven't made a decision yet, but we're showing them what the Army has to offer." Contrary to media reports, recruiting remains high, Williams said. "If people walk into recruiting stations they'll see people joining, just like that couple. It hasn't stopped at all," he said.
He said people have different reasons for joining, and his recruiters go out of their way to determine potential recruits' goals and interests. "Everyone has different needs," he said. Williams said recruits at his station come from all walks of life. "Not everyone who graduates from (the University of California at Los Angeles) has a job. Not everyone who graduates from (the University of Southern California) has a job," he said. "We've had plenty of people from UCLA and USC join the Army at this office."
Potential recruits are given a five-year projection comparison between life in the private sector and the Army. "What company can you go to who will pay back your student loan or pay you while you go to school?" he asked. "I'll tell you: nobody." Williams, a 16-year veteran who's done two tours in Iraq, said his job is to make sure applicants are satisfied with what they get. "The recruiting station is their first taste of the Army," he said.
Every two weeks, the Hollywood station holds preparation classes for recruits so they'll know what to expect when they arrive at basic training. "We just don't send them off to training without teaching them a little about the Army, so they can adapt to their new environment," Williams said.