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Army recruiters take time off to weigh values

The Army suspended recruiting efforts Friday after reported excesses by recruiters trying to make up for a shortfall in new soldiers.
Demonstrators Protest Army Recruiting Practices
Susan Keith holds up signs in protest of the Iraq war and Army recruiting practices Friday in Atlanta, Ga.Barry Williams / Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

The Army suspended recruiting efforts Friday after reported excesses by recruiters trying to make up for a shortfall in new soldiers.

The one-day suspension was to allow commanders to emphasize ethical conduct and “refocus our entire force on who we are as an institution,” said Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, the chief of Army recruiting, to reporters at the Pentagon.

Army officials said the stand-down would affect almost all 7,500 recruiters at 1,700 stations around the United States. Rochelle said the daylong halt could cost the service access to 1,000 potential recruits.

Quota: Two enlistees a month
Each Army recruiter must enlist two people a month into the service. But the Army is 6,600 recruits behind where it wants to be at this point in the year, leaving questions whether the service will be able to fill every position needed to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Opinion surveys suggest that an increasing number of potential recruits and their parents are wary of the Army’s recruiting pitch while soldiers are dying in Iraq.

Rochelle said one problem has been with what the Army calls “influencers” — parents, coaches and others — recommending military service less often than they once did. After the Sept. 11 attacks, these influencers were likely to recommend military service 22 percent of the time, he said; now, Army studies show that figure has dropped to 14 percent.

African-Americans are also signing up in lower numbers, Rochelle acknowledged. He said he was unsure why.

Rochelle said he was aware of seven investigations into excesses by recruiters, mentioning incidents in Houston and Denver but otherwise not going into detail.

Other Army officials have said during the incident in Houston, a recruiter allegedly threatened to have a wavering would-be recruit arrested if he backed out. The recruiter has no such authority.

Second inquiry confirmed
Officials confirmed a second inquiry in Colorado, pointing to news reports about recruiters who allegedly offered information on fake diplomas and ways to get around drug tests and physical fitness requirements.

Army officials said last week they have investigated 480 allegations of impropriety by recruiters since Oct. 1. Some cases are still open, and 91 allegations have been determined to be founded. Eight recruiters have been relieved and another 98 have been admonished.

Since 2000, the Army has relieved between about 30 and 60 recruiters annually for improprieties, according to Army officials. These often involve recruiters concealing negative information about a potential recruit from rest of the Army.