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Army turns to guard for recruiting help

POSTED: September 13, 2007 5:04 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army, struggling to meet recruitment goals in the midst of a long and unpopular war in Iraq, is turning to the National Guard for help in signing up would-be soldiers in hometowns across America.
Army leaders are quietly working out final details of a program that would give bonuses of $2,000 per recruit to any National Guard soldier who brings somebody into the active duty Army.
Army Secretary Pete Geren disclosed the plan in an interview with The Associated Press, calling it an innovative effort to get broader reach into local communities.
The Guard members, Geren said, are “much more in contact with the civilian population than the active duty soldier is. So they give us reach into a larger segment of the community on a personal level, a one-to-one basis, than we get through our recruiting relationships.”
National Guard “recruiting assistants” already earn bonuses for signing up new members of the Guard, and one former Marine was so successful he earned nearly $100,000.
Under the new plan, a recruit would join the Guard but indicate that they are intending to shift to active duty. After they finish basic training they would either sign up for 30, 36 or 48 months in the active Army, or change their mind and simply stay in the Guard.
The Army secretary said the impact of the new Guard program would be felt next year when Guard soldiers will “become an important part of the active recruiting force.”
The secretary says “they would recruit soldiers into the active component,” adding that the recruits would then have continuing obligations in the reserves.
The Army initially expects to gain about 1,600 recruits next year through what they’re calling the “Active First” program, according to Lt. Col. Ron Walls, chief of enlisted recruiting and retention for the Army National Guard.
Guard officials see the new plan as a boost for them, even though it could remove soldiers from the Army Guard ranks and shift them into active duty positions for 30 to 48 months.
“It’s a win-win for both the Army and the National Guard,” said Walls. While the active Army gets a new soldier, “we gain some (recruiting) growth immediately, and in the long run we gain a higher readiness level.”
Under the proposal, recruits who come in under Active First will be counted toward the Guard’s recruitment goals. Also, the active Army would pay the bonus to the Guard soldier that got the new recruit.
Walls said that, in the end, “unless (the recruits) want to make a career out of active duty, they will return to the Guard.”
Guard officials also see this as a way to reach people who might be open to a military career, but are looking for a full-time job, not just part-time in the Guard.
The program will be launched in the coming months after details are hammered out.
Guard members who have gone through the recruiting assistant program, receive a $1,000 bonus for each person they sign up and another $1,000 when the recruit leaves for basic training. More than 100,000 Guard soldiers have gone through the recruiter program.
Both the Guard and the active duty Army have struggled with recruiting, as the U.S. heads into its seventh year at war, starting with the post 9/11 campaign in Afghanistan. More than 3,700 members of the U.S. military have died in the Iraq war alone.
After failing to meet recruiting goals for two consecutive months, the Army hit its target for July, and is on track to meet its annual goal of 80,000 recruits for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30.
Geren said the Army and the National Guard are currently ahead of their year-to-date goal, and the Reserves are at 99 percent of their goal.
But, he acknowledged that it will still be a difficult road to recruit the full 19,100 soldiers needed in August and September in order to meet that 80,000 target.
The Guard has narrowly met its goals for the past two months, but fell short in May.

On the Net:
U.S. Army:
Army National Guard:
National Guard Bureau:

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