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ARLINGTON, Va. — After failing to meet their goals for the fourth consecutive month in May, Army recruiters are now putting all their faith in the “traditionally strong” summer months to get the 80,000 new soldiers officials say they want sworn in in fiscal 2005.

In the active Army, recruiters fell short of their 6,700 target by 25 percent in May, with just 5,039 new recruits, according to figures released by Pentagon officials June 10.

The other two components of the Army had a difficult month as well. The Army Reserve enlisted 2,269 recruits, or 82 percent of its goal. The Army National Guard recruited 4,071 of its 5,791 goal, or 71 percent.

The active-duty Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy, meanwhile, all met or slightly exceeded their May recruiting goals, according to the Pentagon statistics.

But the reserve components of these services fell short: Navy Reserve recruiters enlisted 94 percent of their monthly target, the Marine Corps Reserve met 88 percent, and the Air National Guard recruited 78 percent.

Retention in the Army remains very strong, especially among troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. The Army has re-enlisted 45,333 soldiers, 103 percent of their goal for this point in the fiscal year.

But recruiting has been a different story since February, when the Army failed to meet recruiting goals for the first time since May 2000.

The Army’s 25 percent May recruiting gap may look like relatively good news, compared to its April shortfall of 42 percent. However, as was first reported by the New York Times June 8, Army recruiting officials adjusted their original May goal of 8,050 recruits downward in mid-month, to 6,700.

If the original goal had held firm, Army recruiters would have missed the May mark by almost 38 percent.

Army officials said that such adjustments are common, and that it was wise to take pressure off recruiters when it was clear that the May goal was beyond reach and ask them to make up the difference in the more productive summer months.

Army spokesman John Paul Boyce said, “Historically, the months of June, July and August are the busiest recruiting months for the Army.”

“We are very optimistic that this time of year will help us in our efforts to recruit 80,000 from the active Army, 22,175 from the Army Reserve, and 63,000 from the Army National Guard” in fiscal 2005, which ends Oct. 1, Boyce said.

But the ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are provoking “the toughest [recruiting environment] ever faced by the all-volunteer Army,” Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, head of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, told Pentagon reporters in late May.

The Army is fighting back: 1,000 new recruiters have been added to Rochelle’s rosters, and a new advertising campaign aims specifically at parents, teachers and coaches the service calls “influencers.”

The Army also has expanded sign-up bonuses, widened the pool of applicants it will accept by loosening age requirements, and offering initial service contracts as short as 15 months.

And on June 7, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said that the service is considering doubling the new $20,000 recruiting bonus to $40,000 for soldiers who agree to sign up for eight years of active duty, as well as offering recruits a $50,000 “mortgage assistance” incentive, according to a June 10 story in USA Today.

But the additional bonus money and mortgage assistance are “ideas,” not a firm proposal, and Congress has yet to be officially notified of the plans or asked to fund them, Boyce told Stripes.


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