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News | April 12, 2023

Secretary of the Army Speaks With Chicago-area Educators

By Keri Anne Smialek Chicago Recruiting Battalion

The Secretary of the Army, Honorable Christine Wormuth, led a round-table discussion facilitated by the Chicago Recruiting Battalion last month at the University of Chicago. The forum was designed to encourage a robust dialogue between professional educators and area Army leaders, and to reintroduce the Army’s “Be All You Can Be” concept to a new generation.
Wormuth opened by acknowledging a common educator concern: “I know [Army Recruiters] are looking at the same general demographic of young people [as you], but one of my messages is that we are not in competition.” She emphasized that the Army helps instill the intangible traits – confidence, poise, time management – that help students develop qualities contributing to degree completion.
She recognized that unfamiliarity contributes to misconception, stating, “I know here in the greater Chicago area, there is not an Army Installation; unless you live in an area where there is a large military presence, you may not know what life in the military […] offers. One of the messages that I try to communicate [to teachers] is how many possibilities there are in the United States Army.”
To increase awareness of its opportunities, the Army has created the “Army Educator Course”. Chicago Recruiting Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Shane Doolan is a strong proponent of the course, which seeks to build relationships between civilian teachers and military organizations. When coordinating educator courses, Doolan relies on the expertise of his battalion’s Educational Services Specialist, Dr. Cassandra Gordon-Fletcher.
Gordon-Fletcher’s unique position allows her to bridge the gap between military leaders and area instructors. “As a [Department of the Army] Civilian, I am privy to some of the things schools are doing, and that they are not doing”, she stated. “Fifty percent of the schools in Illinois do not participate in administering the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery). Besides [being] a military test, it also tests aptitude. The ASVAB [focuses on] a career – what are your abilities and what do you [have a propensity toward]?” Gordon-Fletcher additionally advised that the ASVAB could be a valuable resource for high school guidance counselors interested in incorporating the CEP (Career Exploration Program) aspect of the test.
Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Peterson, senior enlisted leader of the Chicago Battalion, praised the efforts of area Recruiters who work hard to build relationships those guidance counselors and principals, but conceded due to residual effects of the pandemic, the quality of that liaison relationship can vary from school to school. He concluded, “the opportunity to re-engage and have [an effective] cross-dialogue” was vital to rebuilding the positive rapport between soldier and scholar.