Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, from left, Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy and Rep. Anthony Brown at a news conference at City Hall.
Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, from left, Army Undersecretary Ryan McCarthy and Rep. Anthony Brown at a news conference at City Hall. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)

Looking to connect with kids in their recreation centers, high schools and college campuses, a top Army official met Friday with city and state leaders to build relationships as the military tries to compete for new recruits in a tight job market.

Ryan McCarthy, the Army’s under secretary, visited City Hall and toured Morgan State University as part of an initiative to expose young people to national security jobs in science, technology, engineering and math. The meeting comes after the Army fell 6,500 troops short of its recruiting goal earlier this year, and as the military looks to compete in a job market with an unemployment rate below 4 percent.

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“When you get an opportunity to serve in the U.S. Army, you get experiences,” McCarthy said. “You meet men and women from all over the country. You learn skill sets in planning, organizing, leading and managing people.

“You get this opportunity to develop skill sets that are very transferable to the private sector, if you choose not to have a career in the military.”

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McCarthy had an hour-long meeting with Mayor Catherine Pugh, Rep. Anthony Brown, interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, local recruitment officers and community leaders, including Andrew Coy of the Digital Harbor Foundation and Brittany Young of the youth organization B-360. He will be holding similar meetings in Cleveland, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles and more than a dozen other cities to strengthen relationships and talk about 150 different careers in the Army, as well as the tuition assistance it offers.

Brown, a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a retired Army Reserve colonel, said he wanted to see what more could be done to help the military build the “best, brightest, most diverse and inclusive” group by drawing on local programs that give kids training and experience in science, technology, engineering and math.

“As we are looking at increased defense spending, how can we ensure some of those monies go into not only recruiting the next generation of war fighter but developing the workforce that is important here in Baltimore City and communities across America?” Brown said.

As President Donald Trump and Congress look to expand the military, the goal for the Army next year is to add 7,500 to its ranks. About 70,000 new troops signed up for active duty in the fiscal year that ended in September, the first time since 2005 that the Army missed its recruitment goal. The Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy all met their goals.

“When you’re in a good economy like we’re in, the Army is an employer that is competing with every other large and small employer,” Brown said. “This was a two-sided conversation: What the Army needs in terms of helping increase recruitment and what resources the Army can bring to communities.”

Pugh said the meeting was a chance to build on opportunities for Baltimore’s young people. She wants to expose kids to the possibility of careers in the military when they’re young, create more recruitment programs in high schools and emphasize the chance to transition from the city’s community colleges to the military.

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Brittany Young remembers Sundays in West Baltimore as a child, when she’d hear the distinct buzzing and revving of engines. It was the city’s signature soundtrack for the summer, a sound that said: It was dirt bike season.

“We are partnering with our armed forces to say, ‘We’re going to be hand-in-hand and in lock-step moving our city forward,” she said.

Young, a founder of B-360 and a member of the Mayor’s Dirt Bike Task Force, said the meeting was a chance to discuss ways to find and connect with young people and let them know paths they can take in life. Her organization uses the city’s dirt bike culture to introduce young people to math and science.

“It was refreshing to hear different organizations literally at the table discussing how they have a common goal — elevate Baltimore kids and the city together with resources to empower,” Young said.

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