Army National Guard misses recruiting goal
By Dave Moniz, USA TODAY
November 24, 2004
WASHINGTON — The Army National Guard has fallen significantly behind its recruiting goal one month into the military’s new fiscal year, continuing a downward slide that began in 2003 and could make it harder for the Pentagon to find enough troops for the war in Iraq.
In October, the Army Guard recruited 2,546 enlistees, more than 30% below its target of 3,675.
The numbers do not bode well for the Army Guard, which missed its 2004 recruiting target of 56,000 enlistees by nearly 7,000. This year, the 350,000-member Guard has an even larger goal of 65,000, in part to make up for last year.
The chief reason for the shortfall is a downturn in recruits with military experience, men and women who leave the active-duty Army but sign up for Guard duty that usually involves a weekend a month and two weeks during the summer.
In past years, these “prior service” soldiers accounted for about half of all Guard recruits. Now, however, many soldiers leaving active duty are reluctant to join because of the enormous new demands on America’s part-time military, including active duty missions that can last up to 18 months.
The Army National Guard and Army Reserve are auxiliary forces that back up the active-duty military. Most troops serve part-time, but in the last three years the Pentagon has called up thousands for active-duty tours. Guard and Reserve soldiers now make up more than 40% of the 138,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
“I’d be very worried right now (about meeting the 2005 recruiting goal) if I were the Guard,” says David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland. “You would have to look at a couple more months of data before you could say the sky is falling. But the sky is definitely tilting.”
Lt. Col. Mike Jones, a deputy division chief in charge of National Guard recruiting, says Guard officials remain optimistic. “I would much rather be in the positive than the negative at this point,” Jones acknowledges, but he predicts recruiting will pick up next year.
Another bad year could affect the Guard’s ability to fully staff some units. Lt. Gen. Steve Blum, the Guard’s top commander, announced earlier this year that the Guard will increase its recruiting force by adding 1,400 recruiters to augment the 2,700 on duty .