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Army Recruiting Up in June
June 30, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Army cut into its recruiting deficit slightly in June but still faces a daunting battle to meet its annual goal of 80,000 new enlistees.

Army recruiters enlisted 6,157 new soldiers this month, 507 more than its goal, Army officials said Wednesday.

The June surplus breaks a string of four straight months in which the Army missed it goals by wide margins.

Through June 27, the Army had recruited 47,121 new soldiers in 2005. That's more than 7,800 below the number it needed to be on track to meet its goal for the fiscal year, which ends Sept.30.

The Army's success in June can be partly attributed to modest expectations. The June 2005 goal was more than 1,000 recruits lower than the June 2004 goal.

Despite the improvement, the Army has only three months left to recruit the soldiers needed to meet its yearly goal. That's an average of nearly 11,000 per month.

Through the first nine months of this fiscal year, the Army has averaged about 5,200 recruits a month.

The Army officials who provided the June recruiting totals asked to remain anonymous, because the Pentagon prohibits them from talking publicly until it releases June recruiting figures for all services on July 10.

The June numbers, while an improvement over the four previous months, also were not anywhere near the 8,086 recruits the Army brought in during January. That's despite offering enlistments as short as 15 months and bonuses as high as $20,000 for some who join.

June's recruiting numbers look good if people don't realize the Army is still going to miss its annual goal, said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

The Army will try to reverse the downturn later this year by adding an additional 800 recruiters and exploring options that include focusing on home-schooled teenagers and signing up more soldiers who score in the lower half of military aptitude tests.

The new recruiters will bring the total to 7,000, which includes 1,000 added earlier this year, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said in an interview with USA TODAY.

Harvey also said the Army will seek congressional approval to raise the top enlistment bonus to $40,000.

The new recruiters will come from the ranks of midcareer enlisted troops in other units, putting further strain on a force that has carried the heaviest burden in prosecuting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Harvey and other Army officials say they expect recruiting to pick up this summer, but they concede that 2006 could be another extremely difficult year.

There were about1.1 million students home-schooled in the USA in 2003, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Laura Derrick, president of the National Home Education Network, said she believes the Army is smart to focus on home-schoolers but there aren't enough of them "to put a dent in what they are looking at."

Derrick said a significant number of children who are home-schooled are in military families. One challenge for the Army will be figuring out how to contact them.

"Home-schooling families aren't that easy to reach," she said.

Another option to boost the Army's numbers, Harvey said, is increasing the number of soldiers who scored below 50% on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. Currently, the Army requires that 67% of new recruits score above 50%.

Because 71% of Army recruits in 2005 have scored above 50%, that lets the service bring in more who scored below 50%, Harvey said.

Retired Army colonel David McGinnis, a military readiness specialist, said increasing the number of soldiers with low test scores shouldn't hurt the Army in the short term, but a drop in quality is inevitable if recruiting does not improve.

During his nationally televised speech Tuesday, President Bush appealed for new recruits, saying there's "no higher calling" than military service.

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Copyright 2005 USA TODAY. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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