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Army draws up new recruiting battle plan

WASHINGTON – The Army has a master plan for recovering from this year’s painful recruiting problems that includes new financial incentives for enlistees, a new way for recruiters to make their pitch and a proposed finder’s fee for soldiers who refer recruits.

The plan was assembled after Army recruiting began falling severely short of goals last spring. The Pentagon announced Tuesday that for the year ended Sept. 30 the Army was 6,627 recruits short of its goal of 80,000. It was the Army’s first shortfall since 1999 and it largest in 26 years.

The Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy all exceeded their full-year recruiting goals, the Pentagon said.

Opinion surveys indicate that daily reports of soldiers dying in Iraq have dampened young people’s interest in joining the military, prompting the Army to try new ways to make the war work in its favor.

For example, since July the Army has been offering prospective recruits what it calls “assignment incentive pay.” That is $400 a month in extra pay for as many as 36 months if an enlistee agrees to join any of the brigades of the 1st Cavalry Division or 25th Infantry Division scheduled to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

When the Army saw its recruiting efforts fall drastically below expectations – bottoming out in April with only 58 percent of that month’s goal achieved – it embarked on some new approaches.

The most important may have been the assignment of extra recruiters. The active-duty Army added nearly 1,300 recruiters during the year, for a total of 6,401 as of Sept. 30.

The Army also has asked Congress for permission to raise the maximum enlistment bonus from $20,000 to $40,000.

Among the main features of the Army’s master plan for reaching its 2006 recruiting goal:

•Adjust the way recruiters frame their sales pitches to young men and women. Instead of focusing mainly on financial incentives and other tangible benefits of joining the Army, recruiters are now being trained to take what some call the “consultative” approach. That means addressing the individual recruits’ personal hopes and fears, rather than using the traditional hard sell.

•Put more effort into recruiting people who have begun their college careers but not yet earned a degree. Also, target those of high school age who are being home schooled – a potential market the Army has largely ignored.

•Shift more advertising dollars from national to local markets.

•Offer a $2,500 “finder’s fee” to soldiers who refer a recruit who makes it through advanced individual training, a step beyond basic training. .


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