June 21, 2006

Army takes older recruits

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, aiming to make its
recruiting goals amid the Iraq war, raised its maximum
enlistment age by another two years on Wednesday, while the
Army Reserve predicted it will miss its recruiting target for a
second straight year.

People can now volunteer to serve in the active-duty Army
or the part-time Army Reserve and National Guard up to their
42nd birthday after the move aimed at increasing the number of
people eligible to sign up, officials said.

It marked the second time this year the Army has boosted
the maximum age for new volunteers, raising the ceiling from
age 35 to 40 in January before now adding two more years.

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

The Army Reserve, along with the regular Army and Army
National Guard, missed its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal, and it
currently lags its fiscal 2006 year-to-date goal by 4 percent.

Army Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, the new Army Reserve chief, said
he does not expect the Reserve to reach its goal of 36,000
recruits for fiscal 2006, which ends September 30.

"We think we'll come in right around that 96 (percent), 97
percent range," Stultz told reporters.

The Army Reserve is a part-time force of federal troops who
can be summoned to active duty by the Pentagon in times of
need. The Army National Guard is another part-time force whose
soldiers are under the command of state governors for use in
emergencies such as natural disasters, but also can be
mobilized to active duty by the Pentagon.

The Pentagon has made extensive use of these part-time
soldiers in Iraq, although the number deployed has been cut

Stultz said his recruiting numbers were hurt by regular
Army personnel opting to stay on active duty and reservists
moving from part-time service to active duty with the Army.


Julia Bobick, an Army Recruiting Command spokeswoman, said
the decision to raise the maximum enlistment age "is not an act
of desperation," but rather the latest prudent step intended to
attract qualified recruits.

These older recruits must pass the same physical standards
and medical examination as younger ones, the Army said.
However, those between 40 and 42 will face additional
cardiovascular screening, Bobick said.

"Of course, not everyone is going to be (physically able to
serve). But those older recruits who can meet the physical
demands of Army service make excellent soldiers because they
bring with them a maturity and a skill level that some of our
young recruits don't have yet," Bobick said.

The Army has taken numerous steps to help recruiting,
including 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.

The U.S. military moved to an all-volunteer force 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.

(Additional reporting by Kristin Roberts)