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. Army fails to meet recruting goals in March
WASHINGTON (AFP) Apr 04, 2005
The US Army failed to meet its recruiting goals in March for a second consecutive month amid persistent concerns that the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are making young Americans leery of military service, a spokesman said Monday.

"The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have caused a certain amount of hesitation among potential applicants and their families," said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the army's recruiting command.

"So our recruiters are having to spend a lot more time talking to applicants and their families about what it means to enlist at this time," he said.

He said the army fell 32 percent short of its March recruiting goal of 6,800 recruits for the active duty force, which followed a 27 percent shortfall in February.

That put it 11 percent behind its goal for the year-to-date through March.

"The last time we had missed a monthly active army mission was in May of 2000," Smith said.

Recruiting for the army reserve was even more difficult, coming in 46 percent below the goal for March, according to the army's figures.

It was the third consecutive month of shortfalls in recruiting for the reserves, which now account for about 35 percent of the 145,000 US troops in Iraq. Smith said the army reserves were 1,382 recruits, or about 17 percent, behind their target for the year-to-date.

"We're concerned about the shortfall," he said. But he added that the army was still "cautiously optimistic" it can reach its goal by the end of the fiscal year. "We still have six month left in the year," he said.

Smith said the army has had to assure prospective recruits and their families that training is not being sped up to meet the demand for forces in Iraq.

"There may be some apprehension that somehow the training cycle is being shortened to get people off and deployed more rapidly," he said.

"And our recruiters have to explain it is still a nine week basic training cycle, followed by advanced training that can last from six to 63 weeks to learn the particular military skills that a person has enlisted for. And only then will a soldier report to his first duty assignment," he said.

Smith said the improving economy is another factor in the army's recruiting troubles.

"The kinds of high quality men and women we are looking for have more opportunities to select from in that case," he said. "It's good for the country, but historically it makes it more difficult to recruit."

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