Military growing option for high school graduates

Freedom New Mexico: Mickey Winfield Portales High School senior Jacob Sambrano looks over a military brochure Friday afternoon at Portales High School.

By Mickey Winfield: Freedom New Mexico

The future is theirs but the clock is ticking.

Just like high school students around the country, Roosevelt and Curry County high school seniors approaching graduation are looking at a variety of options — among those choices a career in the military.

“It’s that time of year where folks are making decisions like if they can pay for college,” Clovis Air Force recruiter Technical Sgt. Ernest Castillo said. “They’re also thinking about joining the military — it’s crunch time right now.”

Each of the four branches of military have a recruiting office in the Clovis mall — and that serves as their headquarters for contacting area high school seniors and others who want to enlist. Along with the other branches of the United States military, Castillo said one draw to joining the Air Force is higher education.

“With the Air Force, we try and focus more on the educational side of it,” Castillo said. “Once you’re done with your time in the Air Force, you can hit the ground running because you have work experience and college credits as well.”

According to the U.S. State Department, military recruitment numbers are up because of the nation’s economic troubles.

Sgt. E.E. Neal, Clovis’ Marine Corps recruiter, has been in the position for seven months.

“I’ve spoken to several local high school seniors who are interested,” Neal said. “The Marine Corps covers 100 percent of their college education while they’re enlisted and at the same time, the Marines offer self discipline and leadership.”

One such recruit is Portales senior Jacob Sambrano.

Sambrano enlisted in the Marine Corps several months ago.

“They contacted me,” Sambrano said. “I wasn’t thinking about it. I was wondering how I was going to pay for college. All of the sudden (the Marine recruiter) called me.”

He could think of only one aspect of military life that he’s anxious about.

“I really haven’t thought of any (negatives),” Sambrano said. “The only negative I can think of is not getting to see your family for awhile, because you can be gone for years without seeing anybody … you know.”

The Portales cross country and track athlete also has a girlfriend who may not be so hot about his decision.

“She won’t tell me (what she thinks),” Sambrano said. “Because she promised she won’t talk to me about it because she would probably just scream in my face. She doesn’t want me to do it, but it’s too late.”

His mother also has concerns.

“It’s my life, she doesn’t care — as long as (I’m safe),” Sambrano said. “She doesn’t want me to die, but that’s no big fear for me,” Sambrano said.

Dr. Pam Ray has been a guidance counselor for 12 years — the last two years in Portales.

“There’s a ton of opportunity,” Ray said. “And it’s a good place to find their niche in life.”

According to state law, all high school guidance counselors are required to make contact information available to military recruiters. Ray believes it’s a positive thing.

“It’s a potential occupation,” Ray said. “It’s a potential way to pay for college. It’s a future for a lot of kids. It’s one more resource for them to explore career options.”

Sambrano, who has no family military history that he knows of, also says it was his interest in getting into the military that convinced him to participate in running sports.

“(Enlisting) really provoked me to get on the track team, it provoked me to run more and it provoked me to get in shape,” Sambrano said. “I’ve been happier than I have been in a long time.

If it were left up to Sambrano, he would be in the infantry — on the front lines of combat.

“I like adrenaline,” Sambrano said. “I like being out there, being able to stay calm in that position and not panicking. If you can do that you can feel real good about yourself.”

Upon graduation in May, Sambrano heads to boot camp for three months, and from there he goes to basic training.

“I just want to be able to do something with my life,” Sambrano said. “There are a lot of people and places (in the world) to see. I want to do that.”