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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Army Retention Numbers Are the Real Story

Army Retention Numbers Are the Real Story

By Harkonnendog

Earlier today the The Blogfather linked to a Ralph Peters piece implying the Army would meet its yearly recruitment goals:

Locked in a difficult war, the U.S. Army is exceeding its re-enlistment and first-time enlistment goals. Has anybody mentioned that to you?

Remember last spring, when the Army’s recruitment efforts fell short for a few months? The media’s glee would have made you confuse the New York Times and Air America.

When the Army attempted to explain that enlistments are cyclical and numbers dip at certain times of the year, the media ignored it. All that mattered was the wonderful news that the Army couldn’t find enough soldiers. We were warned, in oh-so-solemn tones, that our military was headed for a train wreck.

Now, as the fiscal year nears an end, the Army’s numbers look great.

But even The Blogfather makes mistakes, and he backtracked later, linking the UPC’s very own Fester, (congratulations!) later on, who showed:

The math and statements just do not add up here.

and provided some possible reasons for the errors. Fester was right. (Of course. UPC! UPC!) This article from the American Forces Press Service includes the following paragraphs:

across-the-board recruiting successes in June and July may not be enough to make up for springtime slumps when the services, particularly the Army, tally up their year-end recruiting numbers. “Success for the year is still going to be a challenge,” he said.

In fact it is just about impossible for them to meet those year-end goals. The successes of June and July are really noteworthy only for not adding to the year-end shortfalls. Having written that, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees when looking at these numbers. From the same source, we learn that retention is a completely different story:

Active-duty retention during July remained high, with all services meeting or exceeding their overall retention goals for the month, and expected to meet their goals for the fiscal year.

This is fantastic news, and should really be the lead of any story dealing with recruitment and/or retention. A trained veteran is much more effective than a new recruit. The MSM loves to compare Iraq to Vietnam- one wonders what the retenion rates in Vietnam were. This essay:

By Col. Robert D. Heinl, Jr.
North American Newspaper Alliance
Armed Forces Journal, 7 June, 1971

gives an idea of the morale and retention rates in Vietnam:

If 45% of his sailors shipped over after their first enlistment, Admiral Zumwalt would be all smiles. With only 13% doing so, he is growing sideburns to enhance the Navy’s appeal to youth.

Among the Army’s volunteer (non-draftee) soldiers on their first hitch, the figures are much the same: less than 14% re-up.

The Air Force is slightly, but not much, better off: 16% of its first-termers stay on.

For all services, the combined retention rate this past year is about half what it was in 1966, and the lowest since the bad times of similar low morale and national disenchantment after Korea.

That’s a bit of a strawman argument, obviously, but those against the Iraq war compare it to Vietnam, so it seems appropriate. It is especially appropriate when you consider this, again from the American Forces Information Service:

A continuing problem confronting recruiters is that adults who influence young people’s decision to join the military - parents, teachers, coaches and others - are 9 to 10 percent less likely than in the past to recommend military service. As a result, Carr said, recruitment efforts are increasingly addressing not just potential recruits, but also their influencers, many whose only exposure to the military is based on what they see on television or in the movies.

(emphasis mine)


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