On graduation day just before July Fourth, 1,200 freshly minted soldiers wearing gray-green camouflage uniforms and black berets marched past the Fort Jackson grandstand packed with cheering relatives and friends.
Historically, the almost-weekly event draws its largest crowds July through September. That's when 60 percent of recruits reported for basic training during the "summer surge" months.
But this summer, the "surge" is more of a small bump. Fort Jackson has stayed busy throughout the year as the bulk of recruits — about 57 percent expected of 2009’s projected total of 47,000 — arrived before Memorial Day.
A sagging economy, declining casualty rate in Iraq and a resurgence in the U.S. military's popularity appear to have contributed to a strong recruiting year, Army leaders said.
And the steady training schedule at Fort Jackson is likely to continue into next year as recruits find themselves on a waiting list to report for duty.
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