National Guard Recruiting Boom

WaPo fronts a report from Ann Scott Tyson that National Guard enlistments are up to record levels. The surprising reason?

A driving force in this year’s early success, Guard leaders say, is that thousands of Guard members have now returned from Iraq and are reaching out to friends, old classmates and co-workers — widening the face-to-face contacts that officials say are critical to recruiting. Guard members “are staying with us and want to fill up units with their neighbors and friends,” Blum said in an interview. “Now that they’re back — watch out.”

The prospect of serving in a violent Iraq is still part of the equation for potential recruits, and Army officials say more frequent deployments have hurt recruitment for the active-duty Army, which began suffering shortfalls last year. The Guard has tried to address that concern by establishing a rotation cycle of one year abroad for every five years at home, which lends more predictability to the commitment, recruiters and military analysts say.

“Fear of the unknown hurts people. We want to take away the fear,” said Maj. Kristine Wood, recruiting commander for West Virginia. Since 2004, the Guard has had nine brigades deployed in Iraq and elsewhere, but that will drop to two by year’s end, officials say.

So, the Guard is using soldiers just back from a war zone as their primary marketing tool. And it’s working.

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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. Jeff says:

    Sounds like what the Chief of NGB told a couple of congressmen who relayed i on one of the RNC Iraq conference calls. It was more about face-to-face soldiers and not recruiters doing the recruiting (as opposed to just the combat vets.)

    It was also something that the last Guard unit I was in was doing in 2000-2002. At one point there was a detail sent out every month during drill weekend to go to different places and events in the area to recruit and these carried over to events during the weeks and on non-drill weekends.

  2. McGehee says:

    So, the Guard is using soldiers just back from a war zone as their primary marketing tool. And it�s working.

    I can think of at least one semi-regular commenter here who’s not going to like that. Heh.

  3. G A Phillips says:

    What wonderful news!

  4. Jack Ehrlich says:

    It is perfectly understandable. The men doing the job in Iraq and Afghanistan cannot get the truth of what they are doing told here at home, Ken, so they do what all good people do when they are doing something worthwhile. They share the information with their friends and neighbors. The left will learn (?) you cannot hide the truth forever.

  5. Bithead says:

    All of this makes it a little hard to argue that they be rocky situation is descending into civil war ,Bush is a failure, yada,yada,yada.

    which of course, means that you’re gonna be hard pressed to find this little statistic in the mainstream media.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Bithead: Well, is was on the front page of today’s Washington Post

  7. TallDave says:

    I think it’s obvious what’s happening here: People want to die in a meaningless, hopeless civil war quagmire fought for oil and to make Halliburton rich, while serving under the worst President in history.

    Or, all the above could just be crap and the guys coming back are proud to have some measure of democracy and freedom to a country that had none of either before we got there.

  8. Officious Pedant says:

    While an increase in recruiting (and don’t forget the increase in retention, however modest) is good news overall, there are a couple of points that can’t be dismissed.

    First, the military has a fairly large purse, and has been using that purse to lure new recruits and reenlisters. Doubling signing bonuses and re-enlistment bonuses (up to $90,000 for active duty enlisters, depending on the job) has a very real appeal to folks who have, possibly, been unemployed for extended periods or have little economic opportunity other than the military. School age kids with a sense of “It couldn’t happen to me.” having a chunk of change that large waved at them is likely to get their attention.

    The second element is the fact that maximum recruitment ages have been raised to 42, and the percentage of recruits allowed to score at the absolute bottom in their aptitude tests being doubled (to 4 percent), allowed the services, quite a few in fact, to meet or slightly exceed their recruitment goal. Think about that for a minute, though. 4% of 350,000 (Army Guard) is 14,000 troops whose intellect hovers just above room temperature. I’m not criticizing them for their limitations. I’m critical of the military seeking them out in an effort to shore up their numbers.

    It’s not entirely about patriotism and “the friends and neighbors effect”. As has been the case throughout history, it’s also about economic need, modification of the minimal criteria, and reduced expectations.

  9. LJD says:

    Doubling signing bonuses and re-enlistment bonuses (up to $90,000 for active duty enlisters, depending on the job) has a very real appeal to folks who have, possibly, been unemployed for extended periods or have little economic opportunity other than the military.

    That’s an intellectually dishonest statement. An overwhelming majority of the bonuses paid are far below that amount. The reason the amount is so high, is because it applies to highly paid, in demand technicians- the kind that do not join the military because of very lucrative private careers.

  10. Bithead says:


    Thus proving miricles do happen, once in a while.
    I’ll be interested in seeing the spin in the story, however.

    BTW… Tall Dave is a master

  11. veryretired says:

    Some people with little or no exposure to those who actually serve in the military seem to believe that the scent of danger frightens current or potential soldiers.

    In fact, the very opposite is true. When the personality which relishes the chance to serve their country, who enjoys the physical and dangerous demands of soldiering, who wants to prove to themselves and other that they have what it takes to face extreme danger and challenge hears the sound of the guns, they are anxious to get into the thick of it.

    I have a good friend who is a long time army Reservist, a mechanic specialist, and he was furious when his outfit was sent to Alaska to relieve another regular unit instead of being sent to GW1.

    His son joined the army after high school, went to Ranger school, and was recently sent to Iraq. Dad was so proud of him, and the son so proud of his accomplishment, they were both two feet off the ground.

    Of course we worry and pray. But the fact is that he would not want anything else than to be a soldier and have his father’s respect. That so few of the chattering classes know such men and women is their loss, and explains their lack of any insight into what makes stories like this one about high recruitment levels happen.

  12. esmense says:

    One of my closest friends is a Guard recruiter. What is spurring this enthusiasm to recruit new members is a new program that provides a monetary reward to current Guard members who refer new recruits. It has really made a difference. Much increased signing bonuses are helping too, of course.

  13. LJD says:

    veryretired is absolutely correct. The MSM has been pushing the quagmire theory for so long… Unfortunately for their ‘master plan’ they didn’t realize they were actually encouraging young Americans to step up in droves to ‘turn the tables’. Jokes on them (MSM).