Reserve short on recruits
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s heavy use of part-time military units in the war on terrorism and the invasion of Iraq may be starting to exact a price: The nation’s largest auxiliary forces — the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve — are beginning to have trouble meeting their recruiting targets. As of April 30, the Guard was nearly 6,000 recruits short of where it needed to be on that date to meet its Sept. 30 target of enlisting 62,000 soldiers, Pentagon statistics show. If the Guard can’t reverse the shortfall, it will mark the first time since 1998 that it has failed to fill its ranks.
The Army Reserve is also lagging behind and was more than 700 soldiers short of where it needed to be in April to meet its Sept. 30 goal of 42,000.
Defense officials and civilian analysts say the numbers demonstrate that the unusually intense use of part-time soldiers over the past year and a half is beginning to seriously affect the Guard and Reserve. Units have been called up for numerous missions that include guarding bases around the world, fixing war-torn towns in Afghanistan and flying refueling jets over Iraq. Two months after the fall of Baghdad, there are still 215,000 Guard and Reserve troops on active duty around the world, many in Iraq.
“I think it is reasonable to conclude that people are looking at the last 19 to 20 months of mobilization and they are voting with their feet,” says Tom White, a former secretary of the Army. “I think we’re seeing the leading edge of a problem.”
Recruiters aren’t helped by the apparent transformation of part-time soldiering into full-time jobs. For much of the decade before the Sept. 11 attacks, men and women who joined the Guard and Reserve knew that in most cases, they would train one weekend a month and perform two weeks of summer drills. Most were unlikely to be called for active duty.
A recruiting drought could have serious implications for homeland security and the war on terrorism because Guard and Reserve troops are shouldering much of the burden of guarding U.S. airports and performing other domestic security missions.
The demands on National Guard and Reserve troops, most of whom have full-time civilian jobs, have been unrelenting. Some units, including military police and nation-building soldiers known as civil affairs specialists, have been on active duty almost constantly since the Sept. 11 attacks. Last year, the Pentagon extended about 15,000 Reservists for a second consecutive year of active duty, the first time that has happened since the Vietnam War.
For now, the recruiting trouble seems to be confined to the Army’s part-time units. The active-duty forces are on target to meet recruiting goals, as are the Air Force Reserve, the Air National Guard, the Naval Reserve and the Marine Corps Reserve —though those part-time units are smaller than the Army’s and usually have an easier time meeting their goals.http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2003-06-09-reserve-recruits_x.htm
refusing to kill