Much has been made of the Army's recent inability to meet its recruiting goals. Following the MSM logic, U.S. casualties in Iraq are turning off potential recruits, and as proof, they cite the Army's recruiting totals. For the fiscal year that ended on 30 September, the Army attracted just over 73,000 new recruits, about 9% below its stated goal of 80,000.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Marines, who have also suffered significant casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, quietly met their recruiting goal for FY'05, among both active duty and reserve elements. During the same period, the Navy and the Air Force actually exceeded their recruiting targets last year, according to figures published in the Los Angeles Times.
However, the Times' offers a flawed analysis of the Marines' recruiting success, in contrast to the Army's problems in signing up new recruits. A military sociologist at the University of Maryland believes Army recruiting is down (in part) because fewer African-Americans are signing up, and blacks constitute a larger portion of the Army than any other branch of service. The sociologist, David Segal, claims African-Americans have come to doubt whether the military is an equal-opportunity employer. Predictably, there are no statistics to support his theory.
That's absolute rubbish. The U.S. military was a pioneer in ending discrimination in its ranks, and has provided unmatched opportunities for minorities for more than 50 years. Besides, if Segal's theory were true, then all of the armed services would be having recruiting problems to some degree, since African-Americans constitute at least 10% of each military service. And, successive studies from the DOD indicate that African-Americans are still well-represented in the nation's military. In fact, blacks have been historically overrepresented in the ranks of recruits and junior enlisted personnel, so Segal's thesis has some major holes.
Additionally, Segal opines that more Marines tend to come from Marine families who are "already onboard" with the Corps, it's mission, and the potential risks faced by recruits. But again, he offers no data to support his claims. My own experience tells me Segal is wrong; as a former military recruiter (for the Air Force ROTC program) , I found that most of my recruits did not come from military families. Many had family members who had served at one time or another, but comparatively few were the sons of daughters of career officers and NCOs. In short, most prospective ROTC cadets did not come from military families. And, if a family member had served, it was often years ago.
Segal's blather aside, the Times actually stumbles across the real reason for the Marines' recruiting success toward the end of the article, noting that the Corps stresses the challenge if offers, asking potential recruits "do you have what it takes?" The Army, on the other hand, tends to focus on educational programs and other benefits in its recruiting ads.
Which approach is working? The numbers speak for themselves. Obviously, there are many motivations for military service and not every one is cut out to be a Marine. But the Corps' message of service, discipline, loyalty and sacrifice is timeless, and still resonates among young people. And it's a big reason the Marines can still find enough recruits to fill its ranks.