August 6, 2004
The U.S. Army wants to sign up 80,000 new recruits next year, in order to maintain a force of about half a million troops. Recruiting goals have been met over the past few years, despite the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of the wartime casualties have been minor (by historical standards), but several thousand men, and a few women, have been killed or badly injured. Thats a casualty rate of about one percent. If you get sent to Iraq or Afghanistan, your changes of getting killed or badly hurt double or triple, depending on what you do over there. Recruiters are finding that the danger element is actually bringing in some recruits. The young guys can do the math, and realize that combat in Iraq is about as dangerous as some of the crazy things teenagers do for entertainment. The danger angle is turning off a lot of parents, but many 18 year old guys are out to prove themselves, and giving some stranger a chance to kill you has always been one way to go about it.
But the army doesnt just want anyone. Its been noted that one reason for the low casualties, and many successful operations in Iraq and Afghanistan has been the high quality of the troops. Many tricky combat operations have been carried out with no friendly casualties, and everyone understands that smart and well trained troops make that possible. So, the army continues to turn away a lot of people that, in the days of the draft, it would have quickly accepted. Another way to keep the troop quality level up is to induce people who have gotten out, to come back in. The army has found that pitching people, who have been out for two or three years, often works. The patriotic pitch also works, as does a reminder that, in the army, youre often dealing with a higher grade of people than in many civilian jobs. And then there are the bonuses. For critical job categories, $10,000 or more is paid, as a signing bonus, to those who come back for three or four more years.
The navy and air force are laying off over 30,000 people in the next two years. The army has set up a program to get some of them to consider switching to the army. The army has found 120 Air Force specialty codes that will easily fit into 37 Army military occupational specialties (MOSs.) The Navy has 112 ratings (job specialties) that move right into 42 Army MOSs. The army is pointing out advantages of army service compared to the other services. For the sailors, not more long cruises (six months or more). For the air force people, faster promotions (2-4 four years quicker than in the air force, which has always been notorious for slow promotions.)
Earlier this month, the army set up a website for the Blue to Green program (http://www.goarmy.com/btg/index.jsp) and has already had several thousand air force and navy people come by to get more details. Most expressed a lot of interest in making the switch.
The army is having more trouble keeping up its recruiting numbers in the National Guard, but that has not become a serious problem yet. Total army strength is 1.4 million troops (500,000 active, 350,000 reserves and 350,000 National Guard.) All are volunteers.