The Land of 10,000 Lakes isn't exactly known as a place for the Navy. But Minnesota native Lorrie Meyer, a lieutenant commander in the Navy, has returned to her home state and found it fertile ground for the specialized field of recruiting doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. For her efforts, she was recently named one of the Navy's 2010 Recruiters of the Year.

There's no doubt that a stagnant economy has contributed to high levels of military recruitment in all branches. But Meyer, who grew up in Dayton, focuses on an elite group of candidates, scouring medical journals and university medical residency programs. Last year she placed more than 35 health care professionals into the Navy in her territory, which includes all of Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Some are students seeking a stipend to continue their educations, but others have been mid-career professionals.

"Many of the physicians out there have done their thing and done their practice and there's a need to not only serve their country but serve those folks in the wars," she said. "It's a calling."

Meyer, who has 16 years of active duty in the Marines and Navy, became a nurse through the Nurse Corps Candidate Program and sees the idea of the Navy's medical humanitarian efforts during natural disasters as a strong selling point. She also sees the role of women expanding in the military. She was once denied a billet because it was a combat-related assignment.

"It's been phenomenal the opportunities that women now have," she said. "Women in subs, women in higher positions of power. It opens the doors for us."

Related to women in the military, National Public Radio is scheduled to begin a five-part series on Monday exploring the contradiction of the official Pentagon policy banning women from direct ground combat and how women's roles in the military have changed over time. "Women on the Frontlines" runs through Friday on "Morning Edition."

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434