BC Staff Writer
The morning started early for Sgt. Brad Pickett with physical training and then submissions of waiver requests for recruits.
Pickett joined the United States National Guard in 1990 and reenlisted in 2010. Cleveland became home this year when he was hired full-time as Bolivar County's new NCO (Non-Commissioned Officer).
He walked into The Bolivar Commercial with a smile and an excited hello as he placed an order for more business cards to hand out to students at the eight different schools in the county.
After placing his order and saying thank you, Pickett drove back to the US Army National Guard Armory where his office is located.
Unlocking the door Pickett explained, "The armory is monitored at all times. It can be utilized for emergency housing and there is a readiness plan in place in case that happens."
The armory looks like a giant, empty warehouse, however it's not difficult to picture the area filled with beds, supplies or people during an emergency.
Everything was clean and orderly, allowing the soldiers to be prepared for whatever may come their way—in Pickett's case, potential recruits wanting to join the guard.
His office is full of National Guard posters, flyers, basketballs, cups, mugs, pencils, pens, and calendars declaring in bold writing the benefits of being in the National Guard.
This was the area from which Pickett held recruit prequalification interviews and submitted paperwork for the application process.
However, a great deal of the work involves being seen by members of the community and generating interest in the guard.
Pickett had every intention of doing just that the day we followed him and so with a wave to the supply sergeant, Sgt. Bosomtwe, or Sergeant B as Pickett likes to call him, he grabbed a large box of American flags and headed back out the doors, securing each of them as he went.
Dressed in his uniform declaring his name and title, along with the American Flag, Pickett drove to John F. Kennedy Memorial High School in Mound Bayou to present one of the flags to the student body president.
"People way before them sacrificed their lives for the flag and it is symbolic of our freedom. It's important to bring attention to the sacrifices that were made," he explained as he drove to the school.
"The flag is not just our nation's symbol, it’s a symbol of all those people who died for the freedoms we enjoy and have," he added.
Pickett plans to deliver and present flags to to West Bolivar schools, Ray Brooks schools, Shaw schools, and Delta State.
The students and faculty greeted Pickett with a smile or handshake as he asked how they were doing and checked on potential applicants.
His uniform captured the attention of many of the students in the building, causing them to question what part of the military he was in, which allowed him to explain even more about the National Guard.
"I'd love to present the school with a flag," he told the secretary.
Stepping out into the hall Pickett introduced himself to Sha'Kedria Dye, a senior at JFK and the student body president.
"I'm going to present you with a flag for the school and I'm going to show you how to fold it," he told her.
As she held one end of the flag tightly with both hands, Pickett began folding it into a triangle.
"You never let the flag touch the ground and you never let any of the red show because it represents the blood of a fallen soldier," he explained.
As he left the school and said goodbye to students, Pickett easily came to their level and joked with them like friends. The students hollered their goodbyes and made their way back to classes as Pickett walked out the door.
"My philosophy is we are not just recruiting a man or woman to be in the service, we are recruiting a family. The guard is really family-oriented. If I recruit you I'm not just recruiting you I'm recruiting your significant other, your mom, your dad and your children. It's a family organization more so than any other military branch," he explained as he got into the car to go to another school.
Pickett had to present identification to walk into Broad Street High School.
"I'd love for you to take my card and have a few sitting on the desk in case kids want to get in touch with me," Pickett told the secretary.
He also handed out pens and a few calendars in an effort to information out to the students in every way possible.
Pickett had everyone in the office laughing and joking as he talked about something as simple as pens and calendars when the student body president walked in, immediately smiling, the laughter contagious.
As he taught Dekedrian Dunn how to fold the flag under the shade of a few trees, he had the opportunity to talk about the benefits of being in the guard.
"Where are you going to college next year," Pickett asked.
Alcorn was the answer.
"Alcorn has a great ROTC program. You could be in the National Guard and not only serve your country but pay for your education while you did it," Pickett explained.
Once the flag was folded and tucked safely under the principal's arm, Pickett handed the senior his card.
"Get in touch with me, I'd really like to talk to you more about the guard," he said.
With that, Pickett headed back to the armory, hopeful that he got through to another student and confidant that his list of potential recruits was growing.
For more information on the National Guard and how to join, Pickett at 662-588-3804.