Military Recruitment Climbing Up

Monday, July 31st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) — It looks like the big recruiting push at the Pentagon is beginning to pay off, with thousands more men and women reported signing up for military service this year.

For the first time since 1997, all four services are expected to meet their enlistment goals this year, officials said Monday, crediting an unprecedented ad campaign, more creative use of the Internet, more recruiters and a host of incentives.

Incentives offered in the last couple years — to draw new recruits or keep those in the service from leaving — include such things as better pay, more enlistment bonuses, shorter service time and computers in barracks for those who want to get an online education while they serve.

``We're happy, but ... not celebrating,'' said Air Force recruiting spokesman Master Sgt. Tom Clements, predicting the Pentagon will continue to face an uphill battle in coming years.

Officials have said the slump in recruiting in recent years is owed partly to higher-paying civilian jobs in the strong U.S. economy, a higher rate of people going to college and the fact that fewer young people nowadays know anyone in uniform or think of the military as a possible career.

``What we cannot do is ... relax,'' said Army recruiting director Col. Kevin T. Kelley. ``We have to keep on going because it's still a very competitive market place.''

Still, Kelley said, officials are ``very optimistic and positive'' about the results they've gotten so far from what the Air Force has called a ``war on recruiting.''

Though the Marines regularly meet their sign-up goals, the Army, Air Force and Navy have not always been as successful.

The Navy made its goal last year, but in 1998 fell 7,000 short of the 55,000 recruits it was looking for. The Army failed to get enough people in the last two years and the Air Force last year missed its goal for the first time in 20 years as pilots turned their backs on the military for jobs with commercial airlines.

This year, however, the Air Force signed up the 34,000 recruits it was looking for by July 18, with two months left in the fiscal year.

And the Army says it expects to sign up 12,000 more people than last year. In 1999, it recruited only about 68,000 instead of the 74,000 goal. So far this year it has singed 76,000 and expects to meet the goal of 80,000 before the year ending Sept. 31, said Kelley.

Clements said officials have not completely studied the reasons for the improved showing, but think it is due in part to increased and more strategically placed television advertising, an increase in the number of recruiters used and an ``attractive, revamped web page'' which he said was the Air Force's best source for finding possible recruits this year. He said some of the incentives included shorter enlistment time for some jobs and more bonuses.

Kelley credited the improvement in Army figures with a focus on recruitment ``from top leadership down'' which came up with new methods for recruiting such as focusing on college students more than before. New incentives included a program in which several corporation have pledged to give preferential hiring treatment to those who've completed their service. Another allows the enlistee to attend two years of college before joining the Army, giving a monthly stipend during those studies.

And of course, the pay increases approved by the government in recent years have helped.

``I think that has a positive effect, and not only for what people see who are looking at the Army from the outside,'' said Kelley. ``Those who are in the Army see that they are being taken care of and will be positive spokespersons as well.''