WASHINGTON — While the Army and the Marine Corps are straining to meet recruiting goals, the Air Force and the Navy may wind up turning away thousands of potential recruits, according to a report in USA Today.

The Air Force told the paper it has a backlog of about 9,000 enlistees who have not yet been called to duty.

It has slashed its 2005 recruiting target from 35,000 to 24,000. Together, the Air Force and Navy say they are planning to reduce the total number of troops by more than 27,000 in 2005, USA Today reported.

In contrast, the Army and the Marine Corps, which are providing the bulk of ground troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, are adding more than 12,000 troops this year.

One of the primary reasons the Air Force and the Navy are so flush with troops and willing recruits, personnel experts say, is that those branches have suffered relatively few casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I think the most obvious explanation is that you’re less likely to be killed or wounded in the Navy or Air Force,” Richard Kohn, a professor at the University of North Carolina who studies military culture, told the paper.

Of the more than 1,350 U.S. deaths during the Iraq war, 41 have come from the Air Force and the Navy, according to a Defense Department breakdown.

Both the Marines and the Army say they expect to meet their recruiting goals this year but acknowledge it will be difficult, USA Today reported.

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