- Associated Press - Saturday, July 29, 2017

GREENVILLE, N.C. (AP) - More than 50 recent U.S. Army recruits from several counties in eastern North Carolina braved 90-degree temperatures recently to demonstrate their physical readiness for service and compete for top honors among area enlistees.

The Greenville Army Recruiting Company, informally known as the “Bloodhound Unit,” conducted its quarterly Bloodhound Olympics in Greenville. The Greenville recruiting center covers Pitt, Martin, Greene and Beaufort counties. Other Greenville Army Recruiting Company recruiting centers competing in the event included Goldsboro, Rocky Mount, Smithfield and Elizabeth City. The recruiting company covers nearly two dozen eastern counties.

The quarterly event rotates through different cities around eastern North Carolina, but it has been a long time since it last was held in Greenville, company commander Capt. Charles Thomson said.

“We bring our company’s future soldiers together to help them prepare for the challenges of basic training and to build some camaraderie among them as they embark on the next chapter of their lives,” Thomson said.

The new recruits, male and female, will soon head to several Army bases in the Southeast and Oklahoma for basic training, but before leaving they competed in a series of team-oriented physical events that combined trail running along Green Mill Run with challenging calisthenic exercises, overseen by their recruiters. The Rocky Mount recruiting center team claimed victory and took home the Commander’s Cup.

The heat took its toll on two male competitors, both teenagers, who collapsed during the competition due to dehydration, according to Greenville Fire-Rescue paramedics who monitored the event and transported them to Vidant Medical Center for treatment. The temperature and physical challenges did not deter Kelly Jenkins, 24, and Noah Toker, 18. Both are from Mount Olive, but entered the Army from two directions.

Jenkins enlisted after completing her master’s degree in theological studies at Duke University. She said she is joining to take advantage of the pay and benefits, but that wasn’t all.

“The Army is a great organization,” Jenkins said. “You get training and make lots of great friends. I’ve wanted to serve in the military since I was 17, but didn’t think I was physically fit enough to do it then. I can deal with boot camp now; it’s only two and a half months.”

Toker was working at a fast food restaurant and has a goal of becoming a chef.

“I don’t have the money for culinary school now, but I have four years of high school ROTC training, so I decided to be an Army cook,” Toker said. “I think military service will make me a better person and I’ll have friends everywhere I go. I think it will make me a leader, like back in my ROTC days.”

Joining the Army no longer is as simple as going to the recruiting office and signing up, Thomson said.

“Only about 25 percent of today’s young people qualify to join the Army,” the recruiting commander said. “They must meet height and weight requirements and pass a physical examination and aptitude test. They also must be of high moral character and have demonstrated that they have the discipline to live by the high standard of values we hold dear in the Army. The recruits here today are among the top 25 percent of people who have what it takes to be a successful soldier.”

When the new enlistees emerge from boot camp after 10 weeks, they will be changed from the new recruits who competed for the Commander’s Cup.

“They will have the required discipline and understand what it takes to commit to something bigger than themselves and to put the Army and country ahead of themselves,” Thomson said. “The transformation is significant, quick and overwhelming, but something they will look back fondly on for years to come.”

Recruiting in eastern North Carolina is a pleasure, Thomson said.

“The support we get from communities, school districts and families provides a very favorable atmosphere for our recruiters,” he said. “We’re very thankful for that. It’s great to find and work with so many high-quality people who will be the next generation of leaders in our army.”

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Information from: The Daily Reflector, https://www.reflector.com

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