Army recruiting, retention holding its own, but National Guard struggles |

Army recruiting, retention holding its own, but National Guard struggles

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Army is close to most of its goals in both recruiting soldiers and keeping them in uniform, the service’s top general said Monday.

Only the Army National Guard is falling significantly short of its goals, with recruitment reaching just 88 percent of the target, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, told reporters at the Pentagon. The Guard is exceeding its retention targets, Schoomaker said, but by less than 1 percent.

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard, said the shortfall was expected because the Guard set its goal “deliberately high” in anticipation of the departure of many existing Guard members because of the strain of being deployed overseas.

That hasn’t happened, the generals said. Troops that have been sent overseas are staying in the service at a higher rate than their counterparts who remained in the United States, Blum said.

“They see their country under attack, and they are stepping forward to defend it,” said Lt. Gen. Roger Schultz, director of the Army Guard. “And they are stepping forward at a most difficult time ever seen in the 31-year history of the volunteer Army.”

The regular Army and the Army Reserve are both close to or exceeding their recruiting and retention goals, Schoomaker said.

In sending members of National Guard to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas, Blum said, military planners are trying to keep at home at least half the Guard members of every state at any given time. That is to leave a contingent for governors to call on during disasters.

In four states – Vermont, New Hampshire, Idaho and Montana – the military has called up more than half of the Army Guard members, Blum said.

Still, the Army has had to dig deeper to provide enough troops to carry out its missions while at the same time reorganizing itself. Some soldiers have been prevented from retiring through a program called “Stop-Loss” that keeps them in their units if they are 90 days or less away from deployment.

The service also is calling up 5,600 soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve, a pool of former soldiers who have some time left on their military commitments but are not members of any unit or receiving pay as reservists.

Most of the former soldiers are truck drivers, mechanics, supply clerks, administrative clerks or combat engineers who recently left the Army.

The call-up is the first sizable use of the Individual Ready Reserve since 20,277 were mobilized during the 1991 Gulf War.

Some critics have suggested that the call-up of the Individual Ready Reserve is evidence the Army is stretched too thin.