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Community welcomes new army recruits at fair ceremony
army recruits 1
Thirty-six U.S. Army recruits take the oath of enlistment in front of an arena crowd at the Stanislaus County Fair on Monday. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER / The Journal

In the life of a U.S. Army soldier taking the oath of enlistment to defend and protect the United States Constitution and all that it represents is a monumental moment and for 36 new recruits it was made a little more special Monday night when they raised their right hands and swore their allegiance in front of an enthusiastic and supportive crowd at the Stanislaus County Fair.

The event was held prior to the start of the destruction derby in the fair’s arena and organized by the U.S. Army Recruiting Center in Turlock.

“We wanted to do something that showed these new recruits that there was a community standing behind their decision to serve their country,” said Sgt. First Class Shandell McClain, the Turlock recruitment center’s leader. “It’s a big commitment that they are making. This can be a very emotional and proud moment for them.”

McClain said combining the oath with a public event was something she had been wanting to do for some time, so she reached out to Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth, who was able to help arrange the event at the fairgrounds.

The 36 recruits come from all over the region and have a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and reasons for joining the military, but Staff Sgt. Michael Cook said they all share one certain quality:

“They all have a compelling amount of moxie about them,” Cook said. “This is the greatest commitment a young person can make.”

One person taking the oath and making such a commitment was 23-year-old Skylar Bazal, who is leaving behind his job as a professional dance instructor at Alegria Ballroom Dance Academy for new experiences in the U.S. Army.

“Since I was 18 I’ve been feeling this need to help and that I had something to offer to other people,” Bazal said. “I went and did other things, but I would keep coming back to that need to serve. Finally I just got tired of sitting around and decided this was the right move for me.”

Bazal will be shipping out at the end of October and headed for Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, but before he goes he will put his dance skills to the test one more time as he competes in Dancing with the Turlock Stars in September.

Joining Bazal in reciting the oath of enlistment was 19-year-old Jamie Stroup, a graduate of Pitman High School who will be pursuing a career in veterinarian medicine during her stint in the U.S. Army.

“I had been struggling in finding a career path and when I looked at it and learned more about it, I saw that it combined everything I love to do,” Stroup said. “I’m excited about all the people I am going to get to meet and the experiences I will have.”

Stroup will be leaving for Fort Stillwater in Oklahoma and later Fort Sam Houston in Texas to begin her training as a veterinarian technician.