BILLINGS — The military is struggling nationwide to recruit new members, and Montana isn’t immune.
The U.S. Army fell 25% short of its recruitment goal in 2022. Despite those struggles, the Army National Guard recruitment battalion in Billings saw an influx of women joining the service this year.
The National Guard might not be a high school grad’s first choice, but for 18-year-olds Piper Chartier and Mackinzy Ruff of Billings, it was the best choice.
“It gives you such a good future and you meet such great people,” said Chartier on Tuesday.
Added Ruff: “I would go back to basic training, and I would do it again.”
The two Skyview High School grads completed basic and advanced individual training this summer and came back home with some interesting observations.
“You could definitely hear like the drill sergeants were talking about how there’s not as many people coming in,” said Ruff.
And it’s an observation Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Musfeldt can confirm.
“When we had both wars going on, recruiting was not as difficult as it is now,” Musfeldt said.
Musfeldt is the station commander of the National Guard recruiting battalion in Billings. The recruits he looks for have to be physically, morally and mentally qualified.
“With the rise in prescription medication, and drug use, and physical limitations and disabilities, that will negate half the people we talk to right off the bat,” said Musfeldt.
He said that despite difficulties in recruitment, there has been one surprising change: a 60% of the recruits in Billings were women this year.
“We’re seeing more females joining the National Guard because we are more educationally focused, and we’re the only outfit that has that tuition waiver,” said Musfeldt, who recruited Chartier and Ruff.
It’s one of the reasons why Chartier and her sister Skylar Chartier joined the service.
“I’m going to Montana State for college here in January. I’m still going to do the National Guard, but I’m also doing ROTC,” said Chartier.
She’s following Skylar’s footsteps as a soldier, ROTC cadet, and MSU Bobcat. Skylar’s seen firsthand how women are stepping up in the service.
“In my battalion, there [is] a higher percentage of female leadership,” said Skylar.
It’s something that gives Chartier and Ruff hope for the future.
“I think it was one of the best decisions that I could have made,” said Ruff.
Chartier hopes to pursue a career as a physician assistant once she graduates from MSU Bozeman. Ruff will report to her unit in January and hopes to attain her commercial driver's license to assist in her career as a transportation specialist in the National Guard.
If you’d like more information about the Montana Army National Guard, visit Montana Army National Guard.