October 11, 2004
For the first time since 1998, the U.S. Army has lowered some requirements for recruits. For the recruiting year that has just started, at least 90 percent of new recruits must be high school graduates, as compared to 92 percent last years. Up to 2 percent of recruits can be enlisted even if the score in the lowest acceptable range of the service aptitude test; last year it was 1.5 percent. The changes mean the Army can accept as many as 2,000 recruits that would have been previously been rejected.
Officials said the army met most of its goals for the 2004 recruiting year (done on the Federal government fiscal year, so it starts October 1 and ends on September 30), with the active-duty Army and Reserve exceeding their goals, but the Army National Guard came up short by 5,000 solders, the first shortfall by the Guard in ten years. The Guard had a recruiting target of 56,000 soldiers.
The Army likes to enter into each recruiting cycle with an excess of incoming volunteers, that have been deferred from the previous year. Normally this excess is around 35 percent, the Army will only carry a cushion of 18 percent into the 2005. The Army is adapting a range of incentives to get recruits in, including larger bonuses, more educational benefits, and a wider choice of base assignments. It is bringing on 1,000 new recruiters and has started the S-RAP program to allow enlisted soldiers to combine a vacation tour with two weeks of temporary recruitment duty.
However, the Army has potential problems on two other fronts. About 35 percent of the 3,900 Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) call-ups aren't showing up, seeking delays or exemptions. IRR reservists were typically soldiers who had signed up for an 8 year tour, served a 4 to 6 year tour and been honorably discharged. They'd serve off their remaining time in the IRR, gaining time towards benefits while the Army didn't have to keep them on full-time payroll. The Army is threatening IRR reservists with prison time and dishonorable discharges.
A number of calls have flowed into Congress with a few solders are complaining of pressure to re-enlist with the alternative being sent to Iraq for a combat tour. The Army is saying that there is a misunderstanding, as they switch to a unit manning system that is trying to keep troops together in the same unit for three years. According to the Army, troops whose enlistments end before December 2007 have the option to re-enlist, extend their current enlistments a bit, or take no action and possibly be assigned to another unit. Doug Mohney