Army recruiters shift strategies for finding soldiers by reaching out to high school football teams

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BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. -- After failing to meet recruiting goals for the first time in more than a decade, the U.S. Army is getting creative in finding young people.

Football players at a summer camp also are learning about serving their country. Four high school teams from across Missouri are part of the summer program.

It's a good opportunity for the Army to introduce themselves to young athletes.

"We are in one of the toughest recruiting markets that we've seen," said Lt. Jacob Gardner, an Army recruiter.

Making high school football players do push-ups may not seem like a good way to find America's future soldiers, but for many teenagers, learning if they have what it takes to serve the nation is a matter of both curiosity and personal pride.

"I don`t know anything that they do," said Max Conard, a Blue Springs South senior. "I just know pull ups and running with heavy backpacks and stuff. But I don`t know how much I can do."

The Army is focusing on urban areas like Kansas City to help make up a shortfall in recruiting last year.

In a tight labor market where employers are competing for the best talent, the Army is selling itself as a place where athletes can excel.

"A lot of people don`t realize soldiers are athletes," Gardner said. "Soldiers are professional athletes by trade. We want to see those young athletic people in the Army."

With more than 150 jobs that can translate into civilian careers, teens recognize that not all of them will go on to compete professionally or even attend college.

For them the Army can be a viable path to continue to be challenged to make themselves better.

Those who can't pursue their dreams of playing in the NFL may find an honorable career serving their country in the Army.

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