Being a 21st century soldier, the Strip decided to save time by doing a bit of digital reconnaissance before hitting the pavement. It Googled "U.S. Army" and "Kansas City" and in seconds had printed a list of addresses for nearby places to sign up.
In honor of the true American spirit of capitalism, we figured we might want to weigh the best signing bonuses at each recruiting station before taking any pee tests. So we plotted a course to hit stops on Armour, Broadway and Main. Then we rolled out to discover whether Uncle Sam's Army of One might have room for another beefy Midwesterner.
First, the Strip tried to report for duty at 1 W. Armour Boulevard. But it didn't see anything resembling a recruiting station amid the sprawl of office buildings. The Strip spotted a woman sitting on a stoop and hoped she might provide some intel, but after 15 minutes of failing to find an address that matched our list, we saved ourselves, leaving the woman and retreating from the area. This confused cutlet humped it to the next address, 2420 Broadway, but when it couldn't spot any military-looking storefronts after three trips over the Broadway overpass near Union Station, the Strip gave up and headed to its third rendezvous at 3909 Main. There we were greeted with a reassuring sign: a glass door emblazoned with a black-and-yellow star insignia. But the door was locked. Peering through the blinds, this troopin' T-bone could see that the building had been abandoned.
At this point, your loyal meat patty was pretty steamed. So we found a Yellow Pages to double-check our addresses. Finding nothing under "Army and Navy Goods," we flipped to "Recruiting U.S. Armed Forces," where we found listings for Air Force, Army Reserve and Coast Guard stations, but nothing for U.S. Army.
The Strip felt as stupid as Gomer Pyle. Defeated, we called Public Affairs Spc. Arlen Davidson at the Kansas City Army Recruiting Battalion off Prairie View Road.
First, he told us that the Army considers placing ads in Yellow Pages an outdated recruiting tactic. "We don't do Yellow Page ads. It's too expensive," he said. He told us that we should have consulted the "Blue Pages" section of government offices in the front of the book, so the Strip did (where it found the Armour and Main locations still listed).
Davidson concluded that we must have entered bad terms in our Internet search. He said he had developed a system that was practically foolproof: Just type in "U.S. Army Recruiting [Insert your city name here]."
On the other end of the phone, the Strip heard him clacking away on his keyboard, typing "U.S. Army Recruiting Kansas City." The Strip did the same.
"What the heck would that be?" Davidson asked, sounding concerned at the results. Then he admitted that seven of the 10 addresses in front of us were inadvertent decoys:
1 W. Armour, #303: This was "just an office" for the Greater Kansas City Army Recruiting Company headquarters and had no visible signage or active recruiters.
10300 N.W. Prairie View Road: This was the office park for the Kansas City Battalion. "You could get information here but not paperwork," Davidson said. "You'd have to go to a recruiting office."
2420 Broadway: Davidson said this must have been the former Military Entrance Processing Center where he joined up in 1965. (That address now appears to be part of the new IRS building under construction.)
3909 Main: "That has moved," Davidson said. "It's actually [somewhere] on Broadway, I think."
10920 N.W. Ambassador Drive: A recruiting center for medics who would be based in Texas.
12121 Blue River Road: "I have no idea what that is," Davidson said.
7604 State Avenue, Kansas City, Kansas: "That office moved a few years ago [to 7510 State Avenue]. That could be the old address."
In addition to the State Avenue location, two other still-active addresses were for stations on North Oak Trafficway in Gladstone and Noland Road in Independence. As he scrolled through other possible sign-up sites, Davidson spotted two more blanks other company headquarters on College Boulevard in Overland Park and Blue Jay Drive in Liberty.
"I find that quite a bit when I'm trying to look stuff up on Google," Davidson said, backpedaling. "They give me addresses that haven't been active for a long time. I mean, not just on Army stuff but on other things, too." Finally, he suggested we check www.goarmy.com. The Strip entered its downtown office zip code to learn that the nearest join-up joint was at 74th and Broadway, an area deemed "Westport."
Davidson said he often gets calls from potential recruits trying to avoid the runaround.
"A lot of times I'll get calls just out of the blue saying, 'Is this a recruiting office?' I'll ask, 'What part of the city do you live in?' and I try to give the name of the closest location.
"We don't have too many people that miss us if they really want to find us," Davidson added confidently.
Apparently, the Strip just didn't want to sign up bad enough. For its punishment, it will now drop and give Davidson 20 push-ups.