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Staff Sgt. Lori Lawson talks to Stephen Burger, a student at Eastern Kentucky University about joining the Guard. . (Courtesy photo)
Staff Sgt. Lori Lawson poses for a photo at the Louisville MEPS station with enlistee Jacob Kinman. (Courtesy photo)
Staff Sgt. Lori Lawson poses for a photo with Huda AlDarraji along with her boyfriend Jake Hawthorne while at the Richmond Armory after Field Enlistment. Both are now contracted with EKU ROTC. (Courtesy photo)
| Aug. 25, 2021
Kentucky top recruiter makes state history as the first female to hold the title
By Jesse Elboaub
Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office
FRANKFORT, Ky. –
Staff Sgt. Lori Lawson became the first female top recruiter in Kentucky National Guard history at recruiting and retention headquarters September 12, 2020.
Currently based out of Richmond, and assigned to the Eastern Kentucky University Campus, Lawson has served the commonwealth as a recruiter for three years.
Though she has been a recruiter for only three years, Lawson has been a service member for over sixteen years of her life.
"I was 23 when I joined the Marine Corps," said Lawson. I wanted to join after watching movies and commercials growing up, but specifically enlisted in the Marines because I felt like it would challenge me the most."
Working on tow tractors, hydraulic units, and electrical units as a Marine, Lawson served as a ground support equipment mechanic. The unit repaired and serviced 183 different pieces of equipment used to tow or service aircraft.
Nearing the end of her eight-year contract, Lawson opted to get out of the Marines. Her oldest was starting kindergarten in the fall, allowing her two children to start and finish the same schools together throughout their childhood.
It took only about a month for Lawson to miss the camaraderie of the military before she reached out to a Kentucky National Guard recruiter. Initially assigned to a Military Police unit, Lawson soon transferred back to an aviation battalion as a supply sergeant. She served three years as a traditional guard Soldier, drilling one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer for annual training.
It was then Lawson took a 13-year hiatus from her military career. Taking time to focus on her family and the several hardware stores she and her husband had opened in the years prior.
Though over a decade had passed, Lawson couldn't help but continue to feel the gravitational pull of the military. She rejoined Kentucky National Guard as an automated logistical specialist for the 149th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, but after a year, officially found her career calling as a recruiter.
"I wanted to be a recruiter to be able to give back to the community," said Lawson. "I got to understand the guard better through my recruiting experience, and it encouraged me to help others realize the things that we offer and what we do as an organization."
Lawson spoke to her first applicant on her drive home from National Guard Professional Education Center in North Little Rock Recruiting School, Arkansas. Before leaving for the five week course, Lawson had printed 6000 flyers to be put into the new EKU student welcome packets. Students had just started returning to school when a hopeful recruit reached out to Lawson on what would be her first official day as a Kentucky National Guard recruiter.
Though he would not be her first actual enlistment, their bond has continued. The Soldier has just completed Basic Leadership Course to be eligible for promotion to non-commissioned officer.
"Staff Sgt. Lawson works hard, harder than most," said Master Sgt. Kimberly Pitts, who works with Lawson. "Not because she does things inefficiently, but because she doesn't stop moving. She loves the Guard - everything about the Guard and wants to help everyone."
The method of becoming the top recruiter in the state goes beyond numbers. Leading recruiters from across the state are selected and then assessed by a board of senior leaders to claim the honor of being the best among the best.
"Her leadership and professionalism resonate throughout her daily activities and will help students, recruits, faculty, and her peers without hesitation," said Eric Sheaks, Recruiting Operations Officer for Eastern Kentucky University's Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. "Lawson embodies excellence and is one of the best representatives of the KYARNG that I've had the privilege of working with."
Her dedication to the mission that has helped her to be declared the top recruiter for Kentucky. Lawson takes pride in her competitive nature, but it isn't her driving force toward success. Her relentless pursuit of caring for her recruits and making them the top priority in her daily life is what gave her the title.
"We recently went to Fort Benning to watch KYARNG Soldiers graduate from federal officer candidate school," Pitts recounted. "She spoke with multiple people that lived in Georgia about the KYARNG, gave business cards out, and when I asked her why she spent 30 minutes talking to people that lived hours away from KY - she simply just stated, it's what I do."
Everyone is a potential recruit. With this mindset, Lawson has become the first top female recruiter for the Kentucky National Guard. She intends to continue seeking out and helping citizens find purpose and a future within the organization that she feels is worth sharing.
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