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ARLINGTON, Va. — Despite concerns that the increased pace of deployments might prompt a retention crisis in the Army, the service is continuing to meet its active duty re-enlistment goals — even though those goals are higher than they were last year.

Accurate figures for National Guard and Reserve troops was unavailable at this time.

From Oct. 1, 2003, through March 31 of this year, the Army’s goal was to retain 28,377 soldiers, according Lt. Col. Franklin Childress, an Army personnel spokesman.

A total of 28,406 troops re-enlisted, putting Army retention at slightly more than 100 percent of goal, Childress said in a Thursday telephone interview.

“We’re right where we want to be,” Childress said. “The personnel tools and bonuses we’re using seem to be having the intended and desired effect.”

By comparison, in the first six months of fiscal 2003 the Army’s goal was 24,168 soldiers, and 25,328 troops re-enlisted, bringing retention to about 105 percent of goal. The Army actually dropped its retention goal in fiscal 2003, from 57,000 soldiers to 51,000 soldiers.

The reason for the reduction was that officials were concerned that stop-loss provisions would push the force over its Congressionally authorized limit of 482,000 troops, Childress said.

Stop loss prevents servicemembers from voluntarily leaving the military, even if their enlistment period is completed. The program is still in place for soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But in January, in response to Congressional concerns that deployments were stretching the force too thin, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Army leaders to add an additional 30,000 soldiers to the force as quickly as possible; Army officials then upped the fiscal 2004 retention goals.

“Right now, the [retention] target is 56,100,” which is 5,900 more re-enlistments than last year, Childress said.

Among the units

Of the Army’s 10 divisions, only the 82nd Airborne Division did not meet its retention goals in the first half of fiscal 2004.

The 82nd Airborne hit 93 percent of its target, Childress said.

By far, the highest rate of re-enlistments was in the 1st Infantry Division, which achieved 209 percent of its goal.

The other Germany-based division, the 1st Armored Division, also posted a healthy rate: 121 percent for the first six months of fiscal 2004.

Although many have predicted that Army units that have seen multiple deployments will suffer a drop in retention, so far that has not been the case except in the 82nd Airborne.

The 101st Airborne Division, for example, which fought its way across Iraq last year, was at 109.2 percent of its goal at the end of March, while the 10th Mountain Division, whose soldiers have served in both Afghanistan and Iraq, was at 105.4 percent.

Retention in the 3rd Infantry Division, whose tour of duty in Iraq was extended last summer, also hit its six-month goal — but just barely: 101.5 percent, the lowest of any division except the 82nd Airborne.

So while Army personnel officials are “guardedly optimistic at this point” about retention, no one is assuming that soldiers will continue to re-enlist in the active Army at the current rate, Childress said.

“We don’t know what the future holds,” he said.


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