Catching the latest wave in our all-volunteer armed forces, the Marines missed their recruiting goal for January.
For the first time in nearly a decade, the Marine Corps in January missed its monthly recruiting goal, in what military officials said was the latest troubling indicator of the Iraq war’s impact on the armed services.
The struggles of the Army, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard to recruit and retain soldiers have received national attention in recent months. But the recent failure of the Marines, who historically have had the luxury of turning away willing recruits, is a potential problem for the service.
The Marines missed their January goal of 3,270 recruits by 84 people, or less than 3 percent. The Marines last missed a monthly goal in July 1995, and 1995 was also the last full year in which the corps fell short of its annual recruiting quota, said Maj. Dave Griesmer, a spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command.
Richard H. Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina, said, “It’s most troubling because the Marines tend to attract people who are the most macho, seek the most danger and are attracted by the service most likely to put them into combat.”
On Capitol Hill on Wednesday, senior Army officers warned of worrisome recruiting trends and told of steps they were taking to address them. Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz, the chief of the Army National Guard, told the House Armed Services Committee that the Guard was retaining many of its top soldiers but failing to meet goals for recruits. In January, he said, the Guard met only 56 percent of its quota. Both the National Guard and the Army Reserve are increasing the number of recruiters in the field, officers said.
In a reflection of the difficult market for Marine recruiters, the service offers bonuses of up to $30,000 to retain combat veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than relying mainly on replenishing its infantry with troops fresh from boot camp. About 75 percent of enlisted marines leave the service after their first tour, requiring a steady stream of recruits moving through training centers in San Diego and Parris Island, S.C.
The Marines are devising recruiting strategies and offering signing bonuses of $2,000 to $5,000 for specialized jobs, like linguists and avionics technicians.
Sgt. Kimberly Leone, a marketing and public affairs representative at the Marine recruiting station in Chicago, said one new recruiting strategy would involve sending the Marine Corps Band from San Diego to high schools across the country.