The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Georgia native enjoys recruiter outreach in Ironwood

 

December 28, 2019

Tom LaVenture/Daily Globe

Sgt. Steven Nelson, is the new U.S. Army recruiter at the Ironwood Recruiting Station.

By TOM LAVENTURE

tlaventure@yourdailyglobe.com

Ironwood - It was his life's ambition to join the military and Sgt. Steven Nelson will now share that passion with others as a U.S. Army recruiter in Ironwood.

"Growing up, I always wanted to be in the military, it didn't matter what branch," Nelson said.

As he got older Nelson started researching the special units including the U.S. Army Rangers and Special Forces and the U.S. Navy Seals.

"The Rangers, and snipers," Nelson said. "I thought, that's the kind of stuff I really want to do."

Nelson was a high school athlete, running track and playing football. He was working out at every opportunity to prepare himself for the most physically demanding military occupations.

He spoke to an Army recruiter after high school and chose the infantry as the foundation to reach his goal of becoming a Ranger. He is now in his second enlistment and about to start his sixth year in the Army in January.

"I've been loving it ever since," Nelson said.

Most of Nelson's time has been at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He started sniper school last year and made a spot in the sniper section.

"We started out with 56 people and only 18 of us passed," Nelson said.

Nelson attended the Platoon Leadership Development Course for his promotion to sergeant. He was preparing himself for Ranger school when the orders to attend recruiting school arrived.

"I didn't request this but I'm enjoying it," he said.

Recruiters are the face of the Army, he said. The Army wants people with very positive records and no disciplinary actions while in the Army or as a civilian.

"I believe that's why I got picked for it," Nelson said.

After a two month recruiter training course Nelson was sent to the Milwaukee Recruiting Battalion. From there he was sent here to assist Sgt. First Class Alexander Voss with the Ironwood Recruiting Station.

"We stay pretty busy," said Voss, who has been at the Ironwood office since November 2018. "We cover 42 zip codes."

The two cover an area stretching from Ewen-Trout Creek High School in the east to Northwestern and Phillips high schools in Wisconsin, he said. The two go to the high schools as much as they can to share their Army story and to let people know about opportunities ranging from education and training to varying bonuses for certain enlistments.

"The big thing is overcoming some misconceptions about the Army and just being there to answer questions for people," Voss said.

For Nelson, being a soldier and living in a city without a military base isn't so strange. His routine has always been about maintaining his physical fitness and living the seven Army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage.

"My discipline is still there," Nelson said. "You're a soldier 24/7 and so it's not hard to continue living that lifestyle."

He was pleased to find that people of the Upper Peninsula tend to be "outdoorsy" and love hunting and fishing, which is no different from his Georgia upbringing. The winters are very different, he said, and it will be fun to explore more of the U.P. in the summer.

Another joy is having breakfast in local diners and talking to people who are curious about the Army lifestyle, he said. The veterans also like to talk to him.

Nelson said he prefers to talk with kids informally such as lunchtime at school. He finds that a less official presence inspires open conversation and kids ask questions they might not have in a more formal setting such as an auditorium or classroom.

Kids have ambition and he likes to talk to them about developing a solid plan that will fulfill their goals. This is how people become successful individuals, he said.

The kids are not afraid to ask the tough questions and want to know if the fighting today in Iraq and Afghanistan is still as intense as it was years ago when it started. He said the Army is adjusting to more of a "peacetime stance" and specialty combat units see more deployment than the main Army, he said. No matter where someone serves on the job it's still about readiness but the deployments are fewer than before, he said.

"I've been in for six years and I haven't been over there myself," said Nelson, noting that he has trained all over the world.

The biggest benefit from the Army is the leadership experience and it's where young people are given responsibility over other soldiers and equipment, he said.

"I believe the Army is the best place to learn leadership skills at a very young age," he said.

Nelson himself was put in charge of an armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle at one point and a three-man sniper team in another, he said.

"Those guys we're looking up to me and I was in charge of leading them and directing them," he said. "I was making sure they learned the basic combat skills they needed to know and to operate as a sniper in a very small team."

The incentives are good and they are earned.

There are multiple college programs including tuition assistance for soldiers to work on or complete a degree while still on active duty, he said. The G.I. Bill will also be there when a soldier exits the service, he said.

"You're not going in debt for college so that's always a plus," Nelson said.

Nelson said that to be a recruiter means learning to be flexible and able to adapt to any situation. He is meeting people who are interested in the Army along with others who aren't sure or aren't interested.

"By sitting there and talking to them I might be that little spark of fire that interests them into saying, 'Hey, you know what? I might want to join the military,'" Nelson said. "To be able to really get out of your comfort zone you just have to get out there and talk to people."

It's much different from the day-to-day life in the Army, he said. In the sniper section the day is about setting the goal and completing the task in time to hit the gym on the way home, he said.

Now he navigates the variety of people he meets all day and plans the next step of the conversation with each person based on the relationship that he established with each of them.

It's not easy to join the Army today. People must be physically, mentally and morally qualified, Voss said. It's easier now to take the pre-enlistment tests right here in Ironwood, and not have to travel to the Military Entrance Processing Station in Milwaukee until it's time to confirm testing, take the physical and sign the contracts, he said.

"With recruiting you have to work hard everywhere you go," Voss said. "This is a smaller mission at the Ironwood recruiting office but you have to travel more to find people and do the processing."

To contact Nelson, call 906-932-0399 or email steven.d.nelson63.mil@mail.mil.

 
 
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