Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Army Recruitment And The Influencers

The number of young people willing to serve in our Army in its time of highest need is on the decline, reports the Washington Post:
The U.S. Army fell short of its active-duty recruiting goal for June by about 15 percent, defense officials said yesterday. It is the second consecutive month the service's enlistment effort has faltered amid the American public's growing discontent over the war in Iraq.

Army officials confirmed yesterday that the service missed its June target -- the first time its recruiters have missed their monthly mark twice in a row since they were hit hard in 2005 -- but declined to discuss specific numbers before a scheduled release today. Three defense officials said the Army fell short by about 1,400 soldiers, well shy of its goal of 8,400 for June.

Because recruiters consistently exceeded their targets throughout the first half of fiscal 2007, the Army still remains above its year-to-date goal by about 700 recruits.

July, August and September are traditionally the best months for military recruiters, and this year the Army hopes to take in more than a third of its expected 80,000 new recruits in that period. According to Army recruiting statistics, the service aims for 28,850 new soldiers between now and the end of the fiscal year in September -- an average of more than 9,600 each month.

"To date, we're still ahead for the year," said Col. Dan Baggio, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. "Obviously, we're concerned, but we're not panicking. We are ahead for the year, and we're just going to have to work hard to make our numbers."

The Army has met its recruiting numbers in the past two years by mobilizing a larger force of recruiters, offering higher incentives to join and broadening its potential pool by offering waivers -- for physical conditions and violating the law -- to people who normally would not qualify.

Mirroring concerns in 2005, when the Army fell thousands short of its monthly goals during much of the year, defense officials said that a good economy and lack of encouragement for military service from parents, coaches and other "influencers" have caused the recruiting slump. The Iraq war's sharp decline in popularity has also made recruiting far more difficult, as many recruits almost certainly will deploy to the battlefield.

"If you don't think that's affecting the influencers, then you have your head under a rock," said one Pentagon official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the June numbers have not yet been released.
Over the years, I've had a number of both middle school students and former students (who would drop by) solicit my opinion as to whether or not I thought that serving in our military would be a good career move for them.

Having served in the ranks myself, I've always answered that our country's military offered excellent training, travel, and the opportunitiy to be promoted based on one's hard work, self-improvement, and dedication to the mission.

In short, I would answer, "yes!" Serving in our military would be a good career choice.

A number of my former students who actually did enlist have visited me over the years and spoken to me about their experiences. For the most part, those experiences were positive.

Several have served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

One of my former students was killed in the first week of the Iraq War.

That was over four years ago.

With the mission in Iraq becoming ever more muddled and still with no end in sight, (and seemingly no plan for Victory in place) it's become clear that the maiming and killing of (mostly) young Americans will continue for the foreseeable future.

The Bush Administration is unwilling to concede defeat and order the withdrawal retreat of our forces from Iraq.

The Administration is also unwilling to raise the large number of troops needed (and untie our military's hands) in order to allow them to defeat the enemy's forces in the field as well as utterly destroy his will to fight.

Still.... as one of my students' "influencers," I cannot find it within myself to actively discourage young people from serving in our country's armed forces.

To do so would undermine our War Effort, and I simply cannot do that.

But to advise students to enlist in order to go into battle and possibly be injured or killed when our own government doesn't seem to know what it wants to do over there would be disingenuous on my part.

So... for the time being, I'm sad to say that I'll no longer be able to say, "yes!" without hesitation when asked by students about serving in our military.

From this point forward, I'll have to say, "I don't know. Please talk it over with your parents."
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