Chairman Enlists 150 Recruits at NASCAR’s Pennsylvania 500
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
LONG POND, Pa., Aug. 6, 2007 Marine Gen. Peter Pace enlisted about 150 recruits at the Pocono International Raceway yesterday during a swearing-in ceremony before NASCAR’s Pennsylvania 500.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace , Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, center, poses for a picture with young men and women about to join the U.S. Army during an enlistment ceremony at the NASCAR Pennsylvania 500 auto race at the Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., Aug. 5, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. D. Myles Cullen
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stood on the Richard Petty Victory Circle stage and addressed the rows of Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marine enlistees.
“It’s my great privilege and honor to equip the armed forces of the United States with these great young recruits here,” Pace told group members as they stood at attention.
“I want to thank you for being willing to serve your country at a time when we deeply need your service,” he said. “From the Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard and Marines today, we thank you. God bless you.”
Following Pace’s lead, the young enlistees raised their right hands and recited the oath of enlistment.
“I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” they said in unison. “I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same.”
Then, the general walked down a ramp and into the pit area where recruits were gathered.
“Hello, Marine,” Pace said, gripping the hand of a new “devil dog.”
“If you’re joining the United States Army today, then I want you to have my coin,” the chairman told a fresh-faced recruit. Walking alongside the rows, the chairman shook each recruit’s hand, slipping each a special coin that he had deftly palmed.
Air Force recruit Levar Hage said he enlisted because it was time for him to make a change in his life and that joining the Air Force was his most promising option. Meeting the chairman and hearing his words of encouragement, he said, was exciting for him and his fellow recruits.
“It shows me that this is a good group of guys whose hands I’m putting my future in,” he said.
Hage is eager to jump into military life in October when basic training begins at Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, and later at technical school at Sheppard Air Force Base, in Wichita Falls, Texas. But Hage is anxious about the drastic differences military life will bring, he said.
“I’m a little nervous just about the change of the lifestyle. It’s something different than what I’m used to, but I’ll get accustomed to it,” he said.
Easing Hage’s transition is the fact that his brother, Jamel, who stood before him in line, also recited the oath of enlistment yesterday.
“It was both of our decision at the same time,” Jamel said about enlisting. “We just talked about it one day, went in and spoke to our recruiter, and here we are now.
“School just wasn’t for me right now,” he said, “and I’d heard a lot of good things about the Air Force. I’m very excited.”
The recruits in yesterday’s ceremony went into the military’s Delayed Entry Program. Delayed entry enrollees are reserved a slot at basic training camps.
Air Force Col. Brian Madtes, chief of Air Force recruiting services marketing branch, gazed hopefully at the row of budding airmen who agreed to shoulder a new responsibility.
“We get these young kids out here who see what’s in our country’s future, and they’re willing to come out and help and support that cause, keeping us safe for generations to come,” he said. “We tell all of our young troops that this is important, but I think over time, once they get into their service and start serving their country, then I think it will sink in exactly who swore them in today.”
One of the day’s distinguished military guests, Air Force Lt. Gen. John Regni, superintendant of the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., said he admires the patriotism of the young recruits, many of whom grew up near here and recited the oath before friends and family members in the bleachers.
“There are so many young, patriotic men and women that want to join up, and it’s special for their parents and their uncles and grandparents and friends to see them make that commitment to our country,” he said.
“To be recognized in front of their high school buddies, in front of their hometown fans,” he said, “I’m sure means a lot to them.”