CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - Facing an increased demand for new soldiers, the U.S. Army is kicking off a national campaign in Cincinnati Thursday.
Two top Army leaders arrived in town Wednesday night and will spend the day connecting with students, educators, community leaders and media as part of a campaign called "Meet Your Army."
Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, who leads the Army's recruiting command, is here with Maj. Gen. David C. Coburn, who oversees the Army's financial management command.
"This is really about just trying to connect the Army to the American public. Less than 1 percent actually serve in the military, so there are a lot of misperceptions about serving in the Army," Snow said in a live interview in the FOX19 NOW studio Thursday morning.
"This is about trying to break those down, go out there and talk to the youth and community members. Educate them about their Army, about the opportunities to serve that are available to them."
The outreach initiative, which began in 2015, brings Army leaders into communities where the military has little to no presence.
Cincinnati, however, does have a strong military support system. In fact, that's why this region was selected to launch the program this year, said Steve Lee of Indian Hill, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army (CASA) for southern Ohio.
Cincinnati being first on the list this year to do this, kick it off here in our city, is really an honor and it speaks well for our community and the patriotism here and it's felt everywhere across the globe," Lee said. "This country supports the men and women in uniform."
Thursday's event in Cincinnati is the first one the Army has held nationally so far this year.
The campaign will continue to cities including Richmond, Virginia; Portland, Oregon; Des Moines, Iowa; Birmingham, Alabama and New York, New York.
It comes as the Army seeks to add almost 95,000 new soldiers this year as Congress reverses military downsizing during the Obama administration.
Army recruiters exceeded all Department of Defense quality benchmarks in fiscal 2017, despite receiving the largest in-year mission increase in the history of the all-volunteer force, according to Snow.
Every year, however, Army officials say more and more Americans lose connection with their Army. So they feel compelled to do more to explain to the American public who the Army is, what the Army does, and what the Army stands for.
"What I get concerned about is the youth of today, the reality is they want to be part of something that's bigger than themselves. I truly believe that and I think the youth get a bad rep. They are actually quite extraordinary.
"What we try to get them to understand is just the opportunity to go into the Army. Most folks don't realize almost 150 different specialties, about 99 percent of them are actually consistent with things they can do in the civilian industry.
"So there's myths out there right now that the only individuals that come in are going to be infantry, armor. It's not true. We have so many specialties that are consistent to some related fields: IT, public affairs, healthcare."
Snow and Coburn have packed schedules Thursday. Snow is scheduled to visit:
- Western Hills High School in Westwood. He will speak to the superintendent, assistant superintendent and key staff before meeting with students.
- Cincinnati Rotary Club luncheon and meeting at the Netherland Hilton Hotel in downtown Cincinnati. Mayor John Cranley has proclaimed Thursday "Meet Your Army Day" for the city of Cincinnati. Snow will receive a key to the city from a city representative.
- University of Cincinnati School of Business at the main campus in Clifton. Snow will meet with business MBA students and UC veterans.
- Kenwood Country Club in Madeira: Snow will meet with local community leaders. This private event will start with a reception followed by formal pageantry and remarks by Snow and Coburn.
Coburn will visit Xavier University and Indian Hill High School Thursday morning, according to Lee.
He will then join Snow at the Rotary Club luncheon Downtown, at UC and the Kenwood County Club reception.
Thursday's events are hosted and coordinated by Lee and the Columbus Recruiting BN, Cincinnati Recruiting Company.
Lee, a Senior Vice President - Investments at Wells Fargo Advisors in Kenwood, has helped to raise more than $7 million for the USO as the organizer of Cincinnati's Tribute to the Troops event in the last 14 years.
The event is the USO's second largest fundraiser, second only to Washington D.C., according to Lee.
In 2015, the Joint Chiefs of Staff honored Lee with the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the military can award a civilian.
In 2016, he was named a CASA. They are a vital part of the Army, promoting good relations between the Army and the public and advising the Secretary about regional issues.
CASAs serve a two-year term without compensation. Terms can be extended to a total of 10 years.