National Guard Enlistment Drop

Guard Reports Serious Drop in Enlistment [RSS] (NYT)

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.

FILED UNDER: Afghanistan War, Iraq War, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    They’ve been poo pooing this notion that recruitment and retention was going to be a problem. Now there is no more denying it and they need to do something to get more people into uniform. Anyone feel a draft?

  2. anjin-san says:

    Not a problem, I am sure that the chairborne rangers who have been cheering so loudly for the war are ready to sign up for combat duty.

    Or maybe not…

  3. USCitizen/Soldier says:

    I am a Captain in the US Army National Guard and there are several things that the government has been looking to do to recruit new troops and retain those already in. #1) Drop the retirement age from 60 years of age to 55. #2) Offer the soldiers TRICARE health insurance when in part time service, we will pay for it. #3) 10 year, 15 year bonus incentives to keep those who are here and trained. #4) Tuition assistance for spouse and children, right now only for the soldier. All of the above is said to be too expensive. What is going to be the price of freedom? We are going to have to do something to make the military attractive because no one wants to just fight for their country to defend their own freedom. It’s all about what can my country do for me not what I can I do for my country. So since there seems to be more COWARDS in the US today, who won’t even fight for their own freedom. The National Guard and I’m sure all other military branches will suffer in the recruitment of good quality US citizens to fight for everyone elses freedom this year and many years to come.

  4. James Joyner says:

    We’ll be drawing down in Iraq in six months or so, so the demand will ease. The issue is one of the configuration and size of the active force and the over-reliance on the RC. A draft is just not a viable option militarily, let alone politically.

  5. anjin-san says:


    I certainly hope you are correct, but I have a hard time seeing it. Unless Bush’s grand plan is just to declare victory, go home & leave Iraq poised for civil war, with Iran waiting in the wings to install a pro-Tehran goverment.

    We were told recently the back of the insurgency was broken. Of couse that is total garbage. I think my cynacisim is justafied.

  6. DC Loser says:


    Why would Iran have to do anything to install a pro-Iranian government in Iraq? That’s the most likely outcome of the January elections anyway with the united Shiite voting slate backed by Sistani and SCIRI. And that will be the ultimate irony of the whole war – American blood spilled to put in an Iranian style theocracy.

  7. mike says:

    “fight for our freedom” and what we can do for our country? Citizen Soldier what are you smoking? We are defending something but it isn’t “our” freedom. Open up your eyes. Get a clue.

  8. Citizen/Soldier says:

    Hey Mikey

    You sound like you have an opinion. Let’s put the ball in your court. What have you done to defend the United States? I’m currently serving my 10th month in Iraq with the 1140th Combat Engineer Battalion, When I do have a chance to check my email, I read my favorate news source, OUTSIDE THE BELTWAY. Defending the US doesn’t stop at fighting on our soil. It means fighting all over the world, where ever the fight takes you to prevent the fight from coming to our soil. That job has become more difficult since our enemies (terrorists), in case you didn’t know, have become harder to see, track and locate. Because I’ll tell you what, if the fighting comes to our soil what are YOU going to do about it. I imagine you’ll be dazed and confused looking to a Soldier, Marine, Airmen, Navy and/or Coastguard or a veteran of all the above to save your ass. This is why more of you need to quit numbing yourselves with the idea that nothing is going to happen to you. I can’t spell it out any easier for you mike. The very military that keeps you safe and allows you to have a nice place to live your life, is having trouble replinishing its ranks because many people in American society do not want to experience the burden of what it means to have freedom. Many think freedom is just something you’re born with. Is freedom just something you’re just born with in the U.S.A Mike? There are over 180,000 U.S. troops putting their lives on the line, who don’t seem to think so.