Military Recruiting Threatened by Anti-War Activists

By Jered Ede | July 7, 2008 | 8:22 PM EDT

( - Pentagon officials believe that anti-war activism is beginning to have a negative impact on recruiting, contributing to the military's inability to meet some of its enlistment goals for 2005.

Anti-war activists, the Pentagon officials told a U.S. House committee recently, were increasingly approaching school boards and attempting to prevent military recruiters' access to schools.

Vice Admiral Gerald L. Hoewing, deputy chief of naval operations, explained to the House Armed Services Committee that recruiters "are now seeing a small spike in anti-war activism in several regions targeted toward school boards and secondary school administrators, seeking to deny recruiters access to schools. ....

"Continued, or expanding, activism could create additional challenges to our success, should it result in limiting our access," Hoewing continued.

"We shouldn't be targeting our children," Michael McPhearson, executive director of Veterans for Peace and a veteran of the first Persian Gulf War, told Cybercast News Service. "We are concerned about our military targeting young people like that," he said.

McPhearson said his group seeks to educate possible recruits of the dangers of military service. Restricting access, McPhearson said, "would definitely hurt" the military, whose largest demographic for enlistments is high school graduates.

Officials from all four branches of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) and their respective reserve components outlined the successes and failures of their recruiting operations before the committee.

Under Secretary of Defense David Chu explained that the Active Duty components of all branches, except the Army, had met and exceeded their year-to-date (YTD) goals for recruitment. The Army's goal makes up approximately 49.7 percent of the total recruitment goals for all branches, and is currently short by just under 8,000 enlistments, a goal which the Army's deputy chief of staff said is unlikely to be fulfilled.

The most successful branch was the Marine Corps, which contributed 21,397 enlistments to the all-inclusive total of 103,000 recruits. This exceeded the Marine recruitment goal of 20,986. Both the Army and the Marine Corps significantly raised their recruitment goals from last year.

The Reserve Components, however, were not as successful, only attaining about 83 percent of the YTD goals for all branches combined. The Army National Guard and the Army Reserve showed the weakest results, while the Marine Corps Reserve and the Air Force Reserve were the only components to achieve and exceed their goals.

These numbers come after a House appropriations bill that allowed the military to offer up to a $30,000 signing bonus to those soldiers with "in-demand" skills (increased from $20,000), a $15,000 re-enlistment bonus for soldiers serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Kuwait (increased from $5,000), and increased housing assistance.

Monetary incentives, however, are not what drive recruitment, according to Hoewing. Instead, it is the prospect of activity and purposeful service.

"Pride in our nation and our way of life, and defending the freedoms we hold so dearly, especially during times of war, are the primary reasons American men and women serve," Hoewing said. "We consistently find that re-enlistment rates are highest among units that are closest to the engagement.

"The more opportunities our sailors have to perform the missions for which they have trained so arduously, the greater their capabilities," Hoewing concluded.

Not so, claims McPhearson. "Recruiting is not on the right track," he said.

"People don't want to sign up" because of the "nature of the validity of the conflict," McPhearson continued. "Parents don't want to see their children going off and fighting in this war and dying for reasons they're not sure about."

"The numbers speak for themselves," McPhearson said, pointing to the failure of the Army to meet its goals. "Those are the people who will be out on the ground," he continued.

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