National Guard Enlistment Drop
In the latest signs of strains on the military from the war in Iraq, the Army National Guard announced on Thursday that it had fallen 30 percent below its recruiting goals in the last two months and would offer new incentives, including enlistment bonuses of up to $15,000. In addition, the head of the National Guard Bureau, Lt. Gen. H Steven Blum, said on Thursday that he needed $20 billion to replace arms and equipment destroyed in Iraq and Afghanistan or left there for other Army and Air Guard units to use, so that returning reservists will have enough equipment to deal with emergencies at home.
The sharp decline in recruiting is significant because National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers now make up nearly 40 percent of the 148,000 troops in Iraq, and are a vital source for filling the ranks, particularly those who perform essential support tasks, like truck drivers and military police.
General Blum said the main reason for the Army National Guard’s recruiting shortfall was a sharp reduction in the number of recruits joining the Guard and Reserve when they leave active duty. In peacetime the commitment means maintaining their ties to the military with a weekend of service a month and two weeks in the summer. Over the last 30 years, General Blum said, the Guard has counted on these soldiers with prior military service for about half of its recruits. Since the Sept. 11 attacks, however, many of these soldiers have been hesitant to join the Guard because of the increasing likelihood that America’s citizen-soldiers will be activated and sent to Iraq or Afghanistan for up to 12 months. Indeed, many of the active-duty soldiers the Army would like to enlist in the Reserves have recently fought in Afghanistan or Iraq, and some have no inclination to do so again.
I’ve been predicting this for years and am surprised the heavy opstempo of the last decade has taken this long to hurt recruiting. I honestly can’t understand why anyone would join the Guard or Reserve right now. Those who want to serve in the military during wartime are going to join the Active force.
Further, stop-loss has hurt Reserve recruiting, in that the pool of people coming off of active duty who would otherwise sign up is diminished–they’re still on active duty.