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It is not just about a number, it is about manning the fleet with the highest quality we can and making a difference in an individual’s life
Ryan Connell

Making the Cut

Due to the economy, more people are hoping to enlist in the Navy. The recruiters’ mission is to enlist the highest qualified people, but some applicants are rejected because the organization is changing as a whole.

In 2001, Ryan Connell, a Chief Navy Counselor in Syracuse, went to a high school senior’s house to talk with him and his parents about the Navy. Connell met Brian Smith at a high school in Pittsburgh, where Connell was a recruiter. He remembers walking into Smith’s house and how everything looked upside down.

“It was a rough environment for Brian,” said Connell. “He wasn’t the sharpest looking kid either, but his desire to join the Navy was there. So he passed all the tests and he was excited to join.”

Several months later, Connell received a phone call from Smith saying he was home on leave and wanted to see him.

“When he came in, he was in his dress blues and all squared away,” said Connell. “He came up to me and I reached out to shake his hand, but Brian actually wanted to give me a hug and thank me for everything I did for him and for changing his life.”

Connell, who is the leading Chief Petty Officer at the North Syracuse recruiting station, has been in the Navy for 16 years and has been recruiting for more than nine years. He said his mission, as a recruiter, is to not only enlist the highest qualified people, but also provide others with a chance to serve their country.

“It is not just about a number, it is about manning the fleet with the highest quality we can and making a difference in an individual’s life,” said Connell.

In 2011, the Navy, as a whole, enlisted 33,400 sailors, which is a drastically smaller number compared to the 53,520 active duty recruited in 2001.

“We have every type of applicant you can think of trying to join now,” said Machinist Mate 1st Class Andrea Padias, who has been recruiting in Syracuse for almost two years, “from seniors in high school to college graduates with degrees who can’t find a job.”

There is no limit for people applying, but the Navy is changing as a whole, which has made the requirements to join increase, said Padias.

“The Navy has a higher standard now,” said Logistic Specialist 1st Class Shane Graf, who is also a recruiter in Syracuse, “The Navy is working more towards quality and not quantity.”

In the two years Graf has been recruiting, he has seen goals change.

“It changes every week for the most part,” said Graf. “I have seen diversity in the Navy be a priority and then it not, then come back again. I have seen minimum requirements to join go up.”

Danielle Scott, 25, joined the Navy after graduating from LeMoyne College with a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

“I was working as a sub-in while I was looking for a full-time job, but I realized it wasn’t going anywhere,” said Scott, who graduated in December 2011.

She said if she could go back, she would have joined the Navy after high school and avoided $90,000 in loans.

“If the economy was the way it is now back when I was in high school, I never would have gone to college,” she said. “The military is the best option for me right now because the job market is chaos and I want to do something productive.”