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US Army hits recruiting goal; Reserve, Guard miss

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, May 11 (Reuters) The US Army, which fell short in recruiting in fiscal 2005, met its April goal, but the Army Reserve and Army National Guard missed their targets amid persistent concern among potential recruits over the Iraq war.

The Pentagon released monthly military recruiting data yesterday showing that the active-duty Army achieved its 11th straight monthly goal.

But the part-time Army Reserve and National Guard, which both also missed their fiscal 2005 recruiting goals, showed fresh signs of weakness in April even as the Pentagon reduces its reliance on these soldiers in Iraq.

Seven months into fiscal 2006, the Army is slightly ahead of the number of recruits it had landed at the same time a year ago. But because of the way the Army structured its 2006 monthly goals, a big chunk of the recruiting work remains to be done in the summer months.

In a bid to make this year's goal, the Army announced a new 1,000 dollar enlistment bonus for graduating high school seniors who get good marks on a standardized test and agree to enter boot camp by September. 30, the last day of the fiscal year. It is the latest in a series of incentives intended to lure recruits.

The active-duty Army has set a goal to send 80,000 recruits into boot camp in fiscal 2006, the same goal it missed by more than 6,600 in fiscal 2005.

More than three years into the Iraq war, the Army continues to provide the bulk of U.S. ground forces in Iraq. As recently as last summer, 40 percent of the U.S. force in Iraq was Guard and Reserve troops. The number is now about 20 percent, the Pentagon said.

The Army Reserve, a force which can be summoned by the Pentagon to active-duty from civilian life in times of need, missed its April goal by 17 percent -- getting 2,164 recruits compared to a target of 2,611. The Army Reserve stands 5 percent behind its year-to-date goal.

The Army National Guard, whose part-time soldiers come under the command of state governors but can be mobilized by the Pentagon in times of need, missed its April recruiting goal by 10 percent but is still ahead of its year-to-date goal. It got 5,875 recruits in April, compared to a goal of 6,530.

'TOUGHER CHALLENGE' Army officials acknowledge that the war has complicated recruiting.

''We get a lot of anecdotal evidence that recruiters are facing a tougher challenge,'' said Julia Bobick, an Army Recruiting Command spokeswoman, not only among potential recruits but among skeptical parents.

''There's a lot more challenge in convincing them that Army enlistment is still a good opportunity despite the war,'' Bobick added.

Bobick noted that an economy offering more civilian job opportunities also has impacted recruiting.

In April, the active-duty Army got 5,684 recruits, topping its goal of 5,400. It is 4 percent ahead of its year-to-date goal, but still must land 42,947 more recruits by Sept. 30.

Army officials have said the period from June through September, when monthly goals are all much higher than last year's, will determine whether the Army reaches its annual goal or misses for the second straight year.

The active-duty Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force met their April recruiting goals.

Fiscal 2005 was one of the toughest recruiting years since the start of the all-volunteer military in 1973 during the tumult of the Vietnam War era. Some analysts have said if the military cannot attract enough recruits, the United States might have to consider reinstating the draft.

REUTERS PDS PM0449

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