San Diego Union Tribune

May 27, 2005

Top Marine says '05 recruiting goals doable, worries about '06

By Otto Kreisher

WASHINGTON – Despite missing recruiting quotas for four straight months, the Marine Corps expects to meet its annual recruiting goals and is re-enlisting nearly all the active and reserve personnel it needs, the Marine commandant said yesterday.

But Gen. Michael Hagee expressed concern that the Marines could come up short next year if the U.S. military remains as heavily committed in Iraq and the public support for the war continues to drop.

"This is not a Marine Corps recruiting problem. This is the nation's recruiting problem," Hagee said, apparently referring to the more severe recruiting problems being encountered by the Army.

The Army has missed its monthly recruiting goals by as much as 27 percent since February, and the Army National Guard, which fell 12 percent short of its total enlistment goal last year, is having even more trouble so far this year.

Army officials have attributed their recruiting problems to the casualties in Iraq.

The Navy and the Air Force, which are suffering very few casualties in Iraq, have continued to meet their recruiting goals.

After months of high casualties, the Marines fell just short of their quota for signing up new recruits in January, breaking a 10-year record for meeting the monthly goals. They also missed the mark the next three months and may fall short again this month.

But three-fourths of the way through the fiscal year on which the recruiting figures are determined, Marine recruiters are just 441 short of the yearly goal of 38,195 signed agreements for both the active and reserve forces, a Marine Corps recruiting command spokesman said.

Hagee said the Corps is about to enter what usually is a productive recruiting period, after high school graduations.

Despite the shortfall in signing up recruits, the Marines have been able to exceed the monthly goals for sending young men and women to boot camp by drawing on a delayed-entry pool of people signed up the previous year, he said.

Hagee said he is confident that the Marines will meet their annual recruiting quota, which includes the congressionally authorized increase of 3,000 Marines for an active force of 178,000.

And they will do that without lowering their requirement that nearly all recruits be high school graduates or offering shorter enlistment tours, which the Army has done, he said.

Hagee also noted that re-enlistments are running at 95 percent of goals for first-tour Marines, 99 percent for more experienced personnel in the active force and nearly 100 percent in the Marine Corps Reserve.

But, Hagee added, "I was in Vietnam, so I know this could turn around quickly," a reference to the massive exodus of experienced personnel after repeated tours in that conflict.

Although Marine recruiters are coming very close to meeting their goals, they are having to spend three times as long as before for each successful enlistment, he said. A majority of that additional time is spent with the potential recruits' parents, who fear that their children will be sent to Iraq.

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