RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The North Carolina National Guard is seeing higher recruitment numbers than they’ve seen in years and leaders say it’s in part thanks to COVID restrictions lifting.

“We are trending in the right direction, where we’re at right now, we’ve seen a 10-15% increase in the numbers compared to where we were at last year,” Sgt. Major Juan Rojas with the NC National Guard said.

Sgt. Major Rojas says during the pandemic, recruiters couldn’t get in front of high school or even college students for recruitment events. But now most of those restrictions have been lifted.

“Really they’re able to get in front of their target more, which is huge for us, anytime we can get into a classroom, in front of the 17, 18-year-old population, that’s always good,” Sgt. Major Rojas said.

He says other states are seeing a similar rise in recruitment, meaning the expansion is happening nationwide. Being the only service members with state and federal missions, Sgt. Major Rojas says National Guardsmen are eligible for benefits from both the state and federal levels, including healthcare and VA loans. He says there are other benefits that draw a lot of people in, too.

“Just the job training that you can get from all of the various fields that we have in the National Guard, most of which would transfer over to civilian world as well,” he said.

Plus, he said people find a family of sorts within the National Guard.

“From the time that you join the service and going through basic training, that’s where you really learn about teamwork and camaraderie,” Sgt. Major Rojas said.

Recruiters are going to be at the NC State Fair in Raleigh in October to meet potential recruits and talk with them about the benefits. They welcome anyone to approach them there. They’re also planning a recruiting event in November at Fort Liberty. In the meantime, leaders say anyone interested in joining the National Guard can reach out to a recruiter anytime.