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Fred W. Baker III - American Forces Press Service
All military services, including their reserve components, met their recruiting goals for fiscal 2008, marking one of the strongest recruiting efforts in four years, senior Defense Department officials announced today.
“This is the strongest recruiting year we’ve had overall … since fiscal year 2004,” said David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
Notably, the Army and Marine Corps had raised their recruiting goals for fiscal 2008, as both services continue to grow their ranks to meet the demands of the wars on two fronts. In fact, the Army was the sole active-duty service to exceed its goal by a full 1 percent, recruiting 517 more soldiers than its 80,000 target.
And the service increased the overall quality of its recruits, its top recruiting officer said, and put more recruits into the pool waiting to join in fiscal 2009.
“I’ve never seen a better Army,” Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, the commander of the service’s recruiting command.
Only 20 percent of recruits joining the Army in fiscal 2008 required a waiver for medical or conduct reasons, Bostick said. The Army granted only 372 waivers to allow recruits with felony convictions to enlist, down from 511 in fiscal 2007, he added.
Also, the Army increased its percentage of active-duty recruits who hold high school diplomas to 83 percent, up from 79 percent in fiscal 2007.
DoD’s goal is that 90 percent of those enlisting have a high school diploma. All other active-duty and reserve services met or exceeded the 90 percent goal, except for the Army Reserve, which came in at 89 percent. All recruits must have a high school certification to join.
The other active-duty services weighed in at 100 percent of their fiscal year recruiting goals, and each exceeded its goal by at least a few dozen recruits.
The Navy came in at 38,485 accessions, 66 above its goal of 38,419. The Marine Corps came in at 37,991, 24 above its goal of 37,967 and the Air Force recruited 27,848 new airmen, 48 above its goal of 27,800.
Retention was strong for the active-duty Army and Navy, as each exceeded its fiscal 2008 target. The Marine Corps did not reach its goal for retaining first-time recruits, and its retention rate dropped to 95 percent.
Air Force retention suffered in a tumultuous year for the service, although officials did not release specific numbers. Part of the problem, Chu explained, was that the Air Force was drawing down its force at the start of the fiscal year, and therefore did not have strong retention incentives in place.
The Air Force stopped its reduction in strength about mid-year, but it was too late to stop the flow of airmen leaving the service, Chu said. He added that those retention rates are expected to rebound for fiscal 2009, which began Oct. 1.
The reserve forces had a strong recruiting year, as the Air National Guard came in at 126 percent of its recruiting goal, recruiting 2,200 airmen above its goal of 8,548.
The Army Reserve recruited 106 percent of its 37,500-soldier goal, bringing in 39,870 new recruits.
The Air Force Reserve finished the year at 105 percent, with 7,323 accessions, 360 above its goal of 6,983.
The Army National Guard closed out the year at 103 percent, with nearly 2,200 recruits over its 63,000 goal.
The Navy and Marine Corps reserves both came in at 100 percent of their recruiting goals, with 9,134 and 7,628 accessions, respectively.
Retention numbers were not released, but officials said losses were within acceptable limits.
Chu said that DoD begins this recruiting fiscal year in a stronger position than last year. Also, he said, the strength of the all-volunteer force is shown in the overall quality of the recruits.
“We aim for the typical person to be above average,” he said.
More than 92 percent of recruits hold a high school diploma, contrasted with 75 percent of the general U.S. population in the same age range.
Nearly 70 percent of new active-duty recruits came from the top half of those in the United States testing highest in math and verbal aptitude, and about three-quarters of new recruits come from neighborhoods that are at or above the U.S. median annual household income of about $50,000.
“[It] is a great tribute to the qualities of America’s youth today, their willingness to step forward, and their willingness to serve,” Chu said. “The fact that we are getting some of the best and brightest in our society is a great tribute to the spirit that young people put into the notion of public service today.”