Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Military recruitment seen rising amid job woes

By Jim Michaels, USA TODAY WASHINGTON — The number of young people considering a military career has significantly increased for the first time in about five years, buoyed by more positive news out of Iraq. Military officials predict interest will rise even further because of the worsening economy. "We'd like to think now we've bottomed out here and (recruiting) now will continue increasing," said Curtis Gilroy, a Pentagon personnel official. "A lot of that is because of the relatively good news out of Iraq." The percentage of young people who said they would probably join the military increased from 9% to 11% in the first half of this year, according to a Pentagon-sponsored survey. The poll questioned 3,304 young people ages 16 to 21. "We have … a lot more people coming to us now," said Sgt. 1st Class Chad Benes, a recruiter at the Mount Clemens, Mich., recruiting station. Staff Sgt. Harry Weaver, another recruiter at the station, cited the worsening economy in the area, which is 25 miles from Detroit, home of the foundering auto industry. The election of Barack Obama might have helped because he has pushed for a quick drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq, Weaver said. "People think President-elect Obama will pull troops out right away," he said. "Obviously, no matter who was elected, it will take some time." Two years ago, his recruiting station was struggling, Weaver said. Over the past two months, the station has signed up 32 people, compared with 11 during the same period two years ago. Gilroy said it may be too soon to draw any firm conclusions, but the increase raises hopes that the recruiting environment is on the mend after years of tough going. An improved trend would allow the services to be more selective. The Army reported that 83% of its recruits in the year ending Sept. 30 had high school diplomas, up from 79% the previous year.

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