According to the Department of Defense, 71% of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 would be ineligible for the military because of physical, behavioral, or educational reasons. One group in Bakersfield is looking to change that—and the perception of the military.
The Future Soldiers of Bakersfield is a local group for individuals who have enlisted in the military but not yet gone to basic training. The group meets weekly for hikes and other forms of physical exercise.
"Our intent is to develop that teamwork and also we want to be able to again explore the city, explore the surroundings but overall, get physically fit and especially for them so they can be ready for the challenges that they’re going to face at basic training.” said Bakersfield Army recruiter, Martin Martinez.
Martinez served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was selected to work as a recruiter.
He said that recently six out of ten of enlistees recruited from his center didn't make it through basic training because they weren't physically ready. This inspired him to help other future soldiers.
The group is newly formed and hopes to have more hikes in the future as well as obstacle courses and other events. The future soldiers's first official hike was at Hart Memorial Park. Martinez said the group has already grown from just one individual to now six.
Martinez said he hopes the group brings a new perspective on the military to the community.
"I think we would like to encourage the community to get involved not only with what we do but with learning what we actually are as a military, as service members." Martinez said. "Come around… get to see what we actually do. Don’t believe everything that you see in Hollywood movies."