I'm guessing that this interestingly peculiar constellation of reports means that military recruiting is going far, far more badly than we know.
Although the Army will not release its numbers until Friday, it fell about 25 percent short of its target of signing up 6,700 recruits in May, officials said Wednesday. The gap would have been even wider but for the fact that the target was lowered by 1,350. The Army said it lowered the May target to "adjust for changing market conditions," knowing that the difference will have to be made up in the months ahead.
The Army also missed its monthly targets in April, March and February -- each month worse than the one before. In February it fell 27 percent short; in March the gap was 31 percent, and in April it was 42 percent.
"It's like having a persistent drought," said Daniel Goure, a military analyst at the private Lexington Institute. "At some point when you have drought conditions you have to institute water rationing, and that's what you potentially face in the military if it goes on long enough. You would get to a stage where you don't have enough people to staff your organizations."
These recruiting statistics appear to indicate that the Army will likely to fall short of its full-year recruiting goal for the first time since 1999, raising longer-term questions about a military embroiled in its first protracted wars since switching from the draft to a volunteer force 32 years ago....
DoD assumes responsibility for releasing recruiting stats
(Army Times; June 3, 2005)
By Laura Bailey
Times staff writer
The Army and Marine Corps, as they struggle with recruiting shortfalls, will no longer announce their monthly recruiting numbers at the beginning of each month. Instead, the Defense Department will approve the release of recruiting statistics for all four services.
Normally, each service releases its monthly statistics at the beginning of each month, but a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command said on Wednesday that he was no longer authorized to do so. In April, the Corps missed its contracting goal by 260 contracts — falling 9 percent shy of its goal to enlist 2,971 recruits — marking the fourth month in a row that the Corps missed its contracting goal. But whether the Corps was able to turn that around in May will not be known until the Defense Department releases the statistics June 10, said Maj. David Griesmer.
The change will ensure consistency and give Pentagon officials time to review the data, Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said on Wednesday. “We just wanted to release all the information at the same time. It’s all the numbers at once, instead of one service coming out on this day of the month and another service coming out on another day of the month,” Krenke said....
When Marine recruiters go way beyond the call
By SUSAN PAYNTER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER COLUMNIST
For mom Marcia Cobb and her teenage son Axel, the white letters USMC on their caller ID soon spelled, "Don't answer the phone!"
Marine recruiters began a relentless barrage of calls to Axel as soon as the mellow, compliant Sedro-Woolley High School grad had cut his 17th birthday cake. And soon it was nearly impossible to get the seekers of a few good men off the line. [...] Axel's father, a Marine Corps vet who served in Vietnam, died when Axel was 4.
Clearly the recruiters knew all that and more.
"You don't want to be a burden to your mom," they told him. "Be a man." "Make your father proud." Never mind that, because of his own experience in the service, Marcia says enlistment for his son is the last thing Axel's dad would have wanted.
[...] Next thing Axel knew, the same sergeant and another recruiter showed up at the LaConner Brewing Co., the restaurant where Axel works. And before Axel, an older cousin and other co-workers knew or understood what was happening, Axel was whisked away in a car.
"They said we were going somewhere but I didn't know we were going all the way to Seattle," Axel said.
Just a few tests. And so many free opportunities, the recruiters told him.
He could pursue his love of chemistry. He could serve anywhere he chose and leave any time he wanted on an "apathy discharge" if he didn't like it. And he wouldn't have to go to Iraq if he didn't want to.
At about 3:30 in the morning, Alex was awakened in the motel and fed a little something. Twelve hours later, without further sleep or food, he had taken a battery of tests and signed a lot of papers he hadn't gotten a chance to read. "Just formalities," he was told. "Sign here. And here. Nothing to worry about."
By then Marcia had "freaked out."
She went to the Burlington recruiting center where the door was open but no one was home. So she grabbed all the cards and numbers she could find, including the address of the Seattle-area testing center.
Then, with her grown daughter in tow, she high-tailed it south, frantically phoning Axel whose cell phone had been confiscated "so he wouldn't be distracted during tests."
Axel's grandfather was in the hospital dying, she told the people at the desk. He needed to come home right away. She would have said just about anything.
But, even after being told her son would be brought right out, her daughter spied him being taken down a separate hall and into another room. So she dashed down the hall and grabbed him by the arm.
"They were telling me I needed to 'be a man' and stand up to my family," Axel said.
What he needed, it turned out, was a lawyer.
Five minutes and $250 after an attorney called the recruiters, Axel's signed papers and his cell phone were in the mail....
Granted that this was one recruiter -- or rather, one set of recruiters -- who were clearly far, far out of control. I can't imagine that the USMC thinks that kidnapping kids is a good way to win friends and influence enemies, let alone increase their ranks with people who actually want to be there.
That the recruiter felt desperate enough to resort to these measures likely indicates that Marine recruiting is going very badly indeed. Because the Marines are by far the smallest of the military corps, missing recruiting by even a small amount, when it happens consistently enough, can have a very large effect on the Corps' military readiness down the road.
The below Reuters piece has an indicator of how stressful the past few years have been not only for the military people themselves, but also for the military families:
US Army misses 4th monthly recruiting goal in row
08 Jun 2005 19:24:32 GMT
In fresh signs of the strain the Iraq war has put on the U.S. military, the Army missed its fourth straight monthly recruiting goal in May, while divorce rates for officers have surged, officials said on Wednesday.
[...] Meanwhile, the divorce rate more than tripled among Army officers from 2002 to last year, Pentagon figures showed. The Army provides most of the ground forces in the Iraq war, which began in 2003.
[...] SPIKE IN DIVORCES
Maj. Elizabeth Robbins, an Army spokeswoman, said the Army is aware overseas duty in combat zones can be stressful on soldiers and their families, and that the recent spike in divorces has caused concern.
"The burden on officers is especially hard because of their responsibility for their troops when they are deployed," Robbins said.
In fiscal 2002, which ended on Sept. 30 of that year, 1.9 percent of 54,542 married Army officers got divorced, along with 3.1 percent of 193,638 married enlisted soldiers.
In fiscal 2003, which included the first six months of the Iraq war, 3.3 percent of 56,078 married officers and 2.8 percent of 198,230 married enlisted soldiers got divorced. In fiscal 2004, 6 percent of 55,550 married officers and 3.5 percent of 202,134 married enlisted soldiers got divorced.
The 6 percent divorce rate for Army officers was far higher than the figure for officers in other military services in 2004 -- 1.5 percent for the Air Force, 1.7 percent for the Marines and 2.5 percent for the Navy.
Army soldiers serve yearlong tours of duty in Iraq. Robbins said the Army briefs soldiers on how their absence during deployments and their eventual return can affect family relationships.
"We take seriously our obligation to assist soldiers and family members with the inevitable challenges," Robbins said.
Technically, the Reuters article is correct when it says that soldiers serve yearlong tours of duty in Iraq; however, due to stop-loss orders, soldiers at the end of their normal active duty term can be there for 18 months or longer. And not knowing when your spouse will return can be stressful in itself. Add in that most enlisted soldiers are working for a pittance, so that many military families are below the poverty line. It's no wonder that the divorce rates are skyrocketing.Posted by iain at June 09, 2005 01:06 PM