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62 Washington County Public Schools seniors

February 25, 2007|by PEPPER BALLARD

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Before she became a guidance counselor at South Hagerstown High School eight years ago, Deborah Donoghue spent 20 years in the U.S. Air Force.

Her military experience has helped her better explain to the students with whom she works the benefits and drawbacks of joining the service after high school, Donoghue said.

"While I don't advocate our being in Iraq, I do advocate the military for some of these young kids because it offers so many opportunities," she said.

During the last school year, 23 South High students signed up. South High had the highest number of recruits among Washington County schools during the 2005-06 academic year, according to information provided by the school system.

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In all, 62 seniors from Washington County Public Schools enlisted during the 2005-06 academic year, the school system reported.

Donoghue said students continue to sign up for military service.

"Even though public sentiment is that we should be out of Iraq, these kids want to get involved," she said.

Seniors meet with Donoghue twice a year.

Their parents have the option of preventing military recruiters from contacting their children at home. They can express those wishes through a form sent home with students at the beginning of each school year, she said.

During her meetings with students, Donoghue said, she suggests the military for some, but doesn't push it.

If students are sent to speak with Donoghue about her military experience, she explains to them the details of her service, but directs them to recruiters for more information, she said.

'Rewarding job'

When Navy Petty Officer John Stottlemyer goes to high schools to recruit, he sets up a station on the outskirts of the cafeteria and waits for students to approach him.

Military recruiters go to larger schools more often. North Hagerstown High School was visited by military recruiters 45 times during the 2005-06 school year, while Hancock Middle-Senior High School was visited 15 times, according to school system information.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Brent Phillips called recruiting a "tough, but rewarding job."

"You get 100 or so nos before you get one yes," he said.

Phillips said that so far this school year, 14 seniors have enlisted in different branches of the military.

He gave the following enlistment figures for the past five years:

· Thirty-one seniors enlisted in the military in 2006.

· Thirty-eight seniors enlisted in 2005.

· Thirty-nine seniors enlisted in 2004.

· Fifty-eight seniors enlisted in 2003.

· Twenty-three seniors enlisted in 2002.

Phillips said the figures are for fiscal years that run from October of the previous year through September of the reporting year.

Both Phillips and Stottlemyer said they don't have a pitch they routinely give to prospective recruits, but are more interested in what pitches the students give.

"Motivated and intelligent" teenagers are most desirable, Phillips said.

"Recruits a lot of times ask about jobs," said Phillips, who is commander of the Hagerstown Army Recruiting Station. "Modern-day applicants are very knowledgeable before they set foot in the door. They have concerns about deployment, and interests in bonuses and leave time."

Military branches have offices at Foxshire Plaza on Dual Highway.

"For the most part, the people who come in, there's a few who want to go overseas," Phillips said. "For the most part, they just accept that war is an acceptable risk of getting into this occupation. Just because they're in an administrative job doesn't mean that they're not going to see combat."

Enlistees get to select the job they want to perform and other details of their service, he said.

"My big thing is, I'm just honest with them," Stottlemyer said. "I don't lie to them."

Commitment to the Navy is for between four and six years, Stottlemyer said, and the Navy offers 100 percent tuition assistance.

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