Pledging to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic,” 20 new recruits began their Army journeys here Monday at a swearing-in ceremony on the exhibit floor of the Ordnance Training Support Facility.

Richmond Recruiting Battalion organized the event that was meant to draw the public’s attention to the Army’s first “Virtual National Hiring Days” campaign set for June 30 - July 2. The goal is to get 10,000 civilians to enlist in the regular Army or reserves. The swearing-in included a Zoom-broadcasted media roundtable where panelists discussed the personal and professional benefits of serving in the military.

Ceremony attendees included Maj. Gen. Rodney D. Fogg, CASCOM and Fort Lee commanding general; Michael P. Flanagan, civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army, Va.-South; and Lt. Col. Andrew E. Burgess, RRB commander.

“Only one percent of our nation’s population decides to raise their hand (to recite the Oath of Enlistment),” Fogg noted in his remarks prior to the swearing in. “We want to see more people like you who are ready to make that sacrifice of service to our country.”

He informed the audience that he joined more than 30 years ago and has had the opportunity to serve in Alaska, many parts of Europe and other parts of the world where missions ranged from peacekeeping to humanitarian assistance.

“Whether you decided to enlist because a previous family member served and you’re following in their footsteps – or it’s an education opportunity, the pursuit of new skills, or the fulfillment of a dream because you always wanted to be a Soldier – I am privileged to be here with you today at the start of your journey.”

Flanagan built on that thought, speaking of the “incredible journey” the recruits have in front of them whether they serve for four years or much longer.

“You will make friends for life,” he said. “You will become Soldiers for life. Once you go to basic training and graduate, you will forever be a Soldier, and there is nothing more honorable than that.”

Burgess also congratulated the enlistees, noting how they are “taking on a responsibility that is so much bigger than themselves” and will be shaped by the Army Values that tie generations of Soldiers together – past, present and future.

After administration of the oath, the senior leaders, recruiters and one of the newly inducted Soldiers took their roundtable seats to further discuss the Hiring Days campaign and what it means to enlist in the Army.

“COVID-19 has certainly introduced some challenges for our recruiters,” Flanagan pointed out. “Recruiting is naturally a people sport; there’s nothing better than having one of our recruiters engage personally with a young man or woman to share their story and give them a feel for what the Army’s all about.

“When you move everything to a virtual environment,” he continued, “you just lose that one-on-one interaction. So, we’re doing everything we can across the Army to focus on these three days … a time when every individual, not just recruiters or those still in uniform, can reach out via social media and other socially distanced platforms to tell their stories and describe what’s great about being a Soldier.”

Fogg shared one such story with the roundtable audience. Hailing from a small town on the southern end of West Virginia, he didn’t see himself following in his father’s coal miner footsteps.

“I wanted to do something different, so I went to college but ran out of money after the first two years. I was doing pretty well academically, though, so I qualified for an Army scholarship to finish up my last two years. That was my introduction to it all … and here I am 30 years later realizing that military service was absolutely what I was meant to do.”

The Army does not discriminate, Fogg emphatically added.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, what your background is, skin color, religion, whether your family is rich or poor or anywhere in between. … You can join the United States Army and serve with distinction and honor,” he said. “We’re proud of our diversity. It’s not perfect as there are things we still need to work on and make better, but the baseline of our inclusiveness can be found among those 20 future Soldiers who just raised their hand.”

Burgess then offered additional details about the upcoming recruiting drive, noting that further information is available at goarmy.com/hiringdays and individuals considering military service can text “join” to 462769. Potential incentives available include a $2,000 bonus for those who sign up during Hiring Days, up to $65,000 in student loan repayments and $4,000 in tuition assistance per year. The commander read through a list of high-demand jobs where a bonus of up to $40,000 would be available to those who pass course requirements and enter the career field.

In literature shared with roundtable attendees, the recruiters noted how the Army offers 150 different occupations and has part-time and full-time opportunities. There are more than 50 healthcare provider specialties, and 100 percent of Army careers have professional certifications/credentials that translate to the civilian job market.