Video: Military recruiting 'bleak'

Image: Jim Miklasszewski
By Jim Miklaszewski Chief Pentagon correspondent
NBC News
updated 6/8/2005 7:35:21 PM ET 2005-06-08T23:35:21

For the first time, Army and Marine Corps officials are privately admitting they'll probably miss their overall recruiting target for the entire year. In the words of one Army official, it looks bleak.

The two-year war in Iraq is taking a heavy toll on America's all-volunteer force — on the battlefield and at recruiting stations back home.

For the fourth straight month, the Army missed its recruiting target. In May, it fell short by 1,700 recruits, off by 25 percent. And that's even after the Army lowered the target for the month. If the Army had stuck to its original goal of 8,000 recruits for May, it would have missed the mark by 38 percent.

At the same time, the Army National Guard again missed its target by 20 percent.

And without releasing figures, Marine Corps officials say for the first time in 10 years, the Marines missed their goal five months in a row.

The Army continues to fall further behind in recruiting, even though it's offering record incentives for signing up. New recruits can get up to a $20,000 signing bonus.

So why is the Army still coming up short?

"The Army is doing most of the fighting in a very unpopular war," says Loren Thompson, a military expert at the Lexington Institute. "That means no amount of money is going to make recruiting an easy job."

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are putting additional stress on the troops themselves. The Army reports that the divorce rate for combat troops jumped sharply last year to more than 10,000 — almost double the divorces before the wars. The Army blames combat stress.

"We've had a fairly intense deployment pace, training pace and transformation pace," says Army chaplain Col. Glenn Bloomstrum. "I think these figures in 2004 are reflective of the previous three years."

As for recruiting, military officials predict that if the war continues to grind on at the current levels in Iraq, next years' numbers could be even worse.

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