June 9, 2006

Army hits May recruit goal, challenge is ahead

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, which missed its
fiscal 2005 recruiting goal, hit its 12th monthly target in a
row in May, heading into a pivotal summer recruiting period
that officials said will determine whether it makes this year's

The Pentagon on Friday released military recruiting figures
for May showing the active-duty Army got 5,806 recruits,
topping the goal of 5,400, and the part-time Army National
Guard and Army Reserve also reached their targets.

More than three years into the Iraq war, the Army continues
to provide the bulk of U.S. ground forces in the conflict. Army
officials have acknowledged the war has made some recruits and
their families wary about volunteering.

With 42,859 soldiers recruited through the first eight
months of fiscal 2006, the regular Army is 4 percent ahead of
its year-to-date goal, aiming for 80,000 recruits by September
30. But it is only slightly ahead of the pace set last year,
when it missed the same goal of 80,000 by 6,600 recruits.

In fact, a recent internal forecast suggested the
active-duty Army would fall short of its annual goal again this

"If you're not careful, you start believing projections as
being 100 percent (accurate), but they're not. They are rough
approximations," said Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas
Smith. "We're very pleased with our progress so far."

The Army has made 12 straight monthly recruiting goals in
part because it lowered its numerical targets for several
months in this fiscal year while greatly increasing the number
of recruits budgeted to be sent to boot camp in June, July,
August and September.

For example, in 2005 the Army's goal for June was 5,650
recruits; this June's goal is 8,600. Last July's goal was
7,450; this July's goal is 10,450.

"The summer months will be important to us," Smith said,
noting that's when high school graduates and college students
are deciding about their future.


In the latest in a series of steps aimed at boosting
recruiting, the Army said it will pay $1,000 to retired
soldiers who convince someone to enlist, expanding a program
that began in January giving current soldiers a $1,000 bonus
for finding a new recruit.

The Army Reserve got 3,835 recruits in May, beating its
goal of 3,783, but remained 4 percent behind its year-to-date
target. The Army National Guard netted 6,738 recruits in May,
exceeding its goal of 6,420, and is 3 percent ahead of its
year-to-date target.

The active-duty Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force also made
their May goals, with the only military component to fall short
being the Navy Reserve.

The Army has taken numerous steps to help recruiting,
including raising the maximum age for enlistment, offering
various financial incentives, adding recruiters and hiring a
new advertising agency. It even relaxed its ban on certain
types of tattoos to attract recruits who otherwise would have
been disqualified from serving.

Separately, Army officials said they will give a $2,500
bonus to active-duty officers from other services of the
military who transfer to the active-duty Army.

Fiscal 2005 was one of the toughest recruiting years since
the start of the all-volunteer military in 1973, during the
tumult of the Vietnam War era. Some analysts have said if the
military cannot attract enough recruits, the United States
might have to consider reinstating the draft.