Army Guard recruiting falls further behind
WASHINGTON – The Army National Guard, a cornerstone of the U.S. force in Iraq, missed its recruiting goal for at least the ninth straight month in June and is nearly 19,000 soldiers below its authorized strength, military officials said Monday.
The Army Guard was seeking 5,032 new soldiers in June but signed up only 4,337, a 14 percent shortfall, according to statistics released Monday by the Pentagon. It is more than 10,000 soldiers behind its year-to-date goal of almost 45,000 recruits, and has missed its recruiting target during at least 17 of the last 18 months.
“The recruiting environment remains difficult in terms of economic conditions and alternatives,” the Army said in a statement released Monday. “We are concerned about meeting the fiscal year 2005 recruiting missions, but we are confident that our recruiting initiatives will take hold and the American public will respond.”
Jack Harrison, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, said that despite the shortfall, the service is still able to meet its commitments to the Pentagon as well as to state governors, who call on the Guard during disasters and other emergencies.
Some governors have complained about shortages of troops and equipment in their Guard units, prompting the Guard to set a goal of keeping half of each state’s Guard forces at home at any given time.
The Pentagon has already significantly reduced its use of all Guard and reserve forces in the last two years. In April 2003, during the height of the Iraq invasion, some 224,000 of them across all the services were mobilized for federal missions both at home and overseas; that figure is now at 138,000, according to Pentagon statistics.
Harrison acknowledged the heavy use of the Guard in missions in Iraq and Afghanistan has affected recruiting efforts, but noted that the service is ahead of its goals in retaining soldiers who have the option to get out.
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