Video: Black recruiting down

By Don Teague Correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/8/2005 7:34:38 PM ET 2005-06-08T23:34:38

ORANGEBURG, S.C. —It's basic training at Fort Jackson, S.C., where new recruits prepare for war.

For 25-year-old Terrence Bedford, the decision to enlist in the Army wasn't easy — he has a 5-year-old daughter to think about. But, he says, the steady paycheck and opportunities for advancement outweigh the risks.

"Where some people look at it as, 'You may go overseas and get killed,' I didn't really look at it like that," says Bedford. "I take it as a job, and I'm doing my job as well as serving my country."

For decades, African-Americans, like Bedford, have sought military service, enlisting at rates much higher than whites and other racial groups. They still do, but with soldiers dying on a regular basis in Iraq, recruiting is down overall — especially for black soldiers.

The Army says the number of black recruits has fallen from almost 24 percent of the total in the year 2000 to just 14 percent today.

"I think there is probably more opposition to the war in the African-American community than in the white community," says military analyst David Segal.

That’s one reason the Army, despite extensive advertising, has fallen short of recruiting goals in each of the last four months.

"Today's conditions represent the most challenging conditions we have seen in recruiting in my 33 years in this uniform," says Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle with the U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

Army and National Guard recruiters say the pitch of money for college doesn't work as it used to.

"The kids didn’t change; the parents changed," says Sgt. 1st Class Mark Daniel with U.S. Army Recruiting & Retention. "It’s more the parents saying, 'I don’t want my kid to go to war.'"

The recruiting troubles are widespread, even in traditionally strong states like South Carolina, where convincing high school graduates to enlist is an increasingly tough sell.

Three former students from Orangeburg’s Wilkinson High School have died in Iraq. Senior Thadies Brown once planned to enlist but has now changed his mind.

"I was thinking about it and watching the news of how the death toll and all of that ... and I was like, 'Can't do it,'" says Brown.

And that’s a problem for the Army, which is struggling to fill boots in an all-volunteer force.

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