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Army meets recruiting goal for second straight month

WASHINGTON—The active-duty Army made its recruiting goal for the second straight month in July, according to Pentagon figures released Wednesday, but the boost still may not be enough for the service to meet its annual target by the time the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, officials said.

"Because the numbers are up, those are good signs," said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman. "But it's still going to be a challenge."

The Army reported that it had signed up more than 8,000 recruits in July, exceeding its monthly goal by 9 percent. But the service is still 11 percent short of its annual target of 80,000 new soldiers, according to Pentagon figures.

The summer months are historically the best time for military recruiters, since new high school graduates are on the streets and looking for work. Officials say better incentives, including signing bonuses of $20,000 and offers of up to $70,000 for college are also partly responsible for the increase.

But the overall trends for the year aren't encouraging, officials said.

"It's looking increasingly difficult for us to meet our active-duty Army and Army Reserve goals by the end of the fiscal year," said S. Douglas Smith, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command, at Fort Knox, Ky.

The Army National Guard reported that it had fallen more than 1,200 recruits short of its goal of signing up 5,920 new part-time soldiers in July. The Army Reserve came up more than 400 short of its July goal of 2,585 new recruits. Both part-time services remain around 20 percent short of their annual recruiting goals.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken a heavy toll on the part-time services, which haven't seen this level of sustained overseas deployments since World War II. About 40 percent of the Army soldiers now in Iraq are either Guard or Reserve, and the Guard has made its recruiting goal only once in the last 19 months.

But a focus on monthly recruiting trends "misses the bigger picture," said Jack Harrison, a National Guard spokesman. Overall, the Army National Guard is at 95 percent of its authorized strength of 350,000 soldiers. Re-enlistment rates topped 105 percent in July, according to the Pentagon's figures.

"And those are people who are returning from overseas," Harrison said.

The war has also taken a toll on the active-duty Army. Prior to June, the Army had missed its recruiting goals for four months straight. Defense officials blame the decline in part on the strengthening economy, the war and the fact that fewer parents are encouraging their children to join the service.

According to a Defense Department poll in November, only 25 percent of parents said they would be "likely" or "very likely" to recommend military service to their children. And slightly less than half of those with military experience said they would recommend military service.

The other three active-duty services, the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force, reported that they were at or exceeding their recruiting goals for the year, according to the Pentagon's figures. The Marine Corps, though it has suffered high casualties in Iraq in recent months, was at 102 percent of its recruiting goal for the year, according to the Pentagon.

(The monthly recruiting figures can be found online at

http://www.defenselink.mil/releases/2005/nr20050810-4393.html)

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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