The Army National Guard needs fresh blood.
The Army National Guard thinks it has cooked up the right potion to cure its recruiting dilemma.
A load of pizza, a heaping helping of NASCAR, and a dash of free MP3 downloads and video games — plus some cash incentives — are luring the next wave of part-time soldiers. This formula, which is being used to reach those who the Guard thinks are most likely to join, is helping reverse a precipitous decline in the ranks.
Enter the pizza — actually, the pizza box. On it is a picture of a young woman. The written message on the box says that if you join the Guard, the government will pay you and help cover tuition.
Since October, the boxes have shown up in mom-and-pop pizza places in 700 to 900 college towns nationwide, said Lt. Col. Mike Jones, the Guard’s deputy division chief for recruiting and retention.
Another cost-effective campaign has been offering a free iTunes download for those who view certain Guard material on the Guard’s Web site and fill out their personal information. At a cost of about 87 cents a download, he said, it’s a lot cheaper than spending about $8 to give away a Guard hat.
The idea of spending one weekend a month training has been replaced with the possibility of going to war, and the Guard has been hemorrhaging members.
U.S. troop levels dropped to 331,000 in July — 19,000 below the authorized strength of 350,000 — with about 16,000 members from Pennsylvania and about 6,000 from New Jersey.
The Guard’s advertising budget for new recruits, which was $38 million in 2001, is $76 million this year, and the number of full-time recruiters was increased from 2,700 last year to 5,100 this year.
Military recruiters in the United States acknowledge that getting first daughter Jenna Bush to join would be a far bigger boost than even doubling the recruiting budget again, Moskos said.
“Unless you get privileged youth to serve, you’ll have recruitment difficulties,” he said. “This is trying to convince working-class youth they otherwise have a worthless existence.