Soldiers and community members celebrated the opening of a new Alaska Army National Guard Fairbanks Recruiting Station, which helps soldiers and youth connect to career opportunities and the Fairbanks community.

The guard hosted the grand opening of the station across from Hutchison High School on Friday, bringing together more than 50 soldiers and community members to listen to speeches, see the ribbon cutting ceremony, meet local recruiters and enjoy some burgers.

At the new recruiting station, anyone interested can learn how serving in the guard can help them get work experience, develop leadership skills and start a professional path in more than 20 career fields, with college tuition assistance and cash enlistment bonuses provided by the guard.

“It’s so vitally important that we are open to the community because we are citizen soldiers; we want to be a community and be visible,” said Lt. Col. David Jurva, commander at Recruitment and Retention Battalion of Alaska Army National Guard. “That’s why we picked this location, right across from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, right across from the high schools.”

The center will also be a place that community leaders can come in and see how National Guard soldiers can fit into their business, Jurva said. In the course of the new statewide partnership program, Partnership for Youth Success, employers can get a controlled flow of job candidates from the guard.

The guard puts storefronts — recruitment centers open to the public — in places where they can get the most traffic and community involvement, and, as one of the larger communities in Alaska, Fairbanks is a perfect fit, Jurva said. Before the new place on Geist opened, the Fairbanks center was located on Airport Road, and after the lease on that space expired, it moved to the armory for some time.

Staff Sgt. Dylan Granza explained that while so far, only a handful of people walk in the door of the center, the place stays busy with regular business. Recruiters use the center to connect with people who already showed interest in joining, to complete paperwork and conduct interviews.

Overall in Alaska, the guard has four storefronts — in Eagle River, Anchorage, Wasilla and Fairbanks, but there are guard recruiters in villages, cities and towns all over the state, said Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead.

“Alaska is one fifth the size of the United States, and most of the state is off the road system, which presents huge challenges (for recruitment),” Olmstead said. “It’s really important that soldiers are able to be out in the communities, to travel and to get creative with the way that they do their recruiting.”

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal.