Nearing the end of a difficult year, Army recruiters are pulling extra staff from around the service to help meet their annual goal of finding 80,000 new enlistees before October.
Officials are trying to augment the normal staff of 8,000 recruiters by 1,000 to 2,000 people, bringing soldiers in temporarily from other jobs, said recruiting command spokesman S. Douglas Smith.
They also are more heavily promoting a program that uses new "gung-ho" troops to go out and talk about life in the service and one that offers troops referral payments for bringing a friend or acquaintance into the Army, Smith said.
"U.S. Army Recruiting Command is leveraging all available assets to successfully close out the fourth quarter of the recruiting year and achieve the annual mission of 80,000 new soldiers" for the budget year ending Sept. 30, Smith said Thursday.
After missing its monthly recruiting goals for two consecutive months, the Army announced Friday that it had slightly exceeded its target for July. It signed up 9,972 people, 102 percent of the 9,750 it was hoping for. That means that by the end of July, the Army had recruited nearly 62,000 toward the 80,000 goal.
The recruiting shortfall in May was the first time in about two years that recruiters didn't meet the goal for the Army, which is under great strain from serving repeated and lengthy tours of duty in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and trying to increase its overall size.
Even while they missed targets those two months, officials said they still believed they would make the overall goal for the fiscal year. Still, they don't want to take any chances.
Officials are shifting some 200 to 300 soldiers from administrative jobs within the command and sending them out to help recruiters. They're trying to pull back into duty up to 1,000 soldiers from throughout the Army who were recruiters at one time and are now in other jobs, Smith said.
Also getting a push is a program in which soldiers fresh from basic training are sent back to their hometowns to visit old friends and schoolmates and talk about the Army. In yet another, soldiers back from deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan go out and talk about what it's like to be a soldier and be deployed, Smith said.
"It's been a difficult recruiting year and the rationale for all of this is to ensure that we are putting our maximum effort toward achieving the goal," he said.
The Army met its goal in the 2006 budget year after missing its target in fiscal year 2005 for the first time since 1999.
To attract more to the service, it has added more full-time recruiters and offered recruiting bonuses, referral bonuses and other incentives such as schooling and career advancements. It also is paying bonuses to entice soldiers already in the service to re-enlist.
A new $20,000 bonus also was announced recently for those who sign up by the end of next month. The bonus applies to new recruits with no prior military service who enlist for at least two years and agree to report to basic training within 30 days of enlistment.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has set a goal of increasing the size of the active-duty Army by 65,000 to a total of 547,000 within five years, partly to ease some of the strain on the force.
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