U.S. Army National Guard's recruiting woes deepen
11 Jul 2005 21:50:25 GMT
By Will Dunham
WASHINGTON, July 11 (Reuters) - The Army National Guard, struggling more than any other part of the U.S. military to sign up new troops amid the Iraq war, missed its ninth straight monthly recruiting goal in June, officials said on Monday.
In danger of missing a third straight annual recruiting goal, the Army National Guard fell 14 percent short of its June recruiting target, the Pentagon said. Three quarters through fiscal 2005, which ends Sept. 30, the Army National Guard stood 23 percent behind its year-to-date goal.
"I can tell you their goal is at risk, so we're concerned," Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, said of the 2005 goal of 63,002 new soldiers.
The Army National Guard has missed its recruiting target in every month of the fiscal year, last achieving a monthly goal in September 2004, said Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman. It sent 4,337 new soldiers into boot camp in June, short of its goal of 5,032, the Pentagon said.
The Army National Guard, with about 330,000 soldiers, was formed as a part-time force, with its members living civilian lives while engaging in periodic military training.
Unlike soldiers in the part-time Army Reserve, made up of federal troops, those in the National Guard serve under the control of state governors usually for roles like disaster relief in their home states. They can be summoned to active-duty Army service in times of national need.
The Army has provided most of the ground troops in Iraq, and has relied heavily on part-time soldiers.
Officials said that one of the reasons the Army National Guard has suffered more than the Army Reserve in recruiting is that National Guard soldiers regularly serve in direct combat roles, while Reserve soldiers often serve in relatively less perilous combat support jobs in Iraq.
Recruiters have said potential recruits are wary of serving in an Iraq war in which more than 1,750 U.S. troops have been killed and another 13,000 wounded.
Mark Allen, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau at the Pentagon, said another factor was that a declining number of soldiers at the end of their regular Army commitment were joining the National Guard. Allen said traditionally half of the National Guard was soldiers with prior military service, but the figure was now 35 percent.
"If you left the Army today and the reason you left was because of the overseas deployments, if that was a negative for you, why would you get in the Guard and face the same thing?" Allen asked.
The Army National Guard missed its annual recruiting goals in fiscal 2003 and 2004 by about 13 percent each year, Krenke said.
The Iraq war marks the first test of the all-volunteer U.S. military during a protracted war. Some defense experts have argued the United States may have to consider reviving the draft, ended in 1973 during the tumult of the Vietnam War, if the military does not attract sufficient numbers of recruits.
The Pentagon previously said the regular Army reached its June recruiting goal after falling short for four straight months, and the Army Reserve met its monthly target.
The regular Army remained 14 percent behind its year-to-date target and was in danger of missing an annual recruiting goal for the first time since 1999. The Army Reserve was 21 percent behind its year-to-date goal, and was also in danger of falling short for the year.
The Marines made their June goal and were on pace to meet their annual target. The Navy Reserve was the only other part of the military to miss its June target, and was behind its year-to-date target.