Recruiting Update

We should rest comfortably knowing the US Army is diligently recruiting our future warriors and ambassadors in this "War on Terror", right? The Army has been consistently hitting, exceeding actually, their recruiting numbers.

FY2006

Accessions

Goal

Progress

October

4,925

4,700

6%

November

5,856

5,600

13%

December

741

700

14%

January

8,337

8,100

25%

February

6,114

6,000

32%

March

5,396

5,200

39%

April

5,684

5,400

46%

May

5,806

5,400

54%

June

8,756

8,600

65%

July

10,890

10,450

78%

The Army is on track to hit its annual recruiting goal of 80,000 recruits in the two months left in the fiscal year. Undoubtedly this will be celebrated, especially since FY2005 ended at only 92% of the same 80,000. By the way, in July, the Army pulled in more than 1500 recruits than the other three services combined.

How has the Army been able to hit these numbers in a year when the war is increasingly seen as unpopular? Well, it has become more and more clear that success has been the result of cheating the system and ultimately the quality of the fighting force.

The Pentagon finally announced it will "closely monitor recruiters" in light of recruiter misconduct. As war requires increasingly sophisticated soldiers, out recruiting standards drop. The quality of the enlisted man and woman is essential as they are frequently the person in contact with local populations who can become friend or foe based on the interaction.

Accessions is only one part of the looming problem, retention is something else, and arguably more important as we can't afford to lose the experience. Current retention figures are hard to come by, but last June the New York Times ran an interesting editorial, The Not-So-Long Gray Line, that provides insight into the thinking of some:

''I feel like politicians have created a difficult situation for us,'' he told me. ''I know I'm going to be coming back here about a year from now. I want to get married. I want to have a life. But I feel like if I get out when my commitment is up, who's going to be coming here in my place? I feel this obligation to see it through, but everybody over here knows we're just targets. Sooner or later, your luck's going to run out.''

At the time, he was commanding three vehicle convoys a day down a treacherous road to pick up hot food for his troops from the civilian contractors who never left their company's ''dining facility'' about five miles away. He walked daily patrols through the old city of Mosul, a hotbed of insurgent activity that erupted in violence after the 101st left it last year. The Army will need this lieutenant 20 years from now when he could be a colonel, or 30 years from now when he could have four stars on his collar. But I doubt he will be in uniform long enough to make captain.

While the overall service, Army included, doesn't have as bleak a picture as these quotes indicate, the combination of "social promotion" of un(der)qualified officers is further evidence of a problem. For example, historical promotion rates for captain to major ran at 70-80%. In 2005, the Army's promotion rate was an astonishing 97%. A result of superior talent in the Army? Unfortunately, this is unlikely.

We may be seeing the tip of the iceberg of what happens when recruiting standards drop, will situations like Haditha occur again and thus provide "aid and comfort" to the enemy through reinforcing their propaganda message? >Brevity2006018322825

If the Pentagon does intervene in monitoring the Army's Recruiting Command, will it fall short the number of troops necessary to fulfill the mission? Will another branch be formed to fill the gap?