As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.
The last fiscal year was a banner one for the military, with all active-duty and reserve forces meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals for the first time since 2004, the year that violence in Iraq intensified drastically, Pentagon officials said.
And the trend seems to be accelerating. The Army exceeded its targets each month for October, November and December — the first quarter of the new fiscal year — bringing in 21,443 new soldiers on active duty and in the reserves. December figures were released last week.
Recruiters also report that more people are inquiring about joining the military, a trend that could further bolster the ranks. Of the four armed services, the Army has faced the toughest recruiting challenge in recent years because of high casualty rates in Iraq and long deployments overseas. Recruitment is also strong for the Army National Guard, according to Pentagon figures. The Guard tends to draw older people.
“When the economy slackens and unemployment rises and jobs become more scarce in civilian society, recruiting is less challenging,” said Curtis Gilroy, the director of accession policy for the Department of Defense.
Still, the economy alone does not account for the military’s success in attracting more recruits. The recent decline in violence in Iraq has “also had a positive effect,” Dr. Gilroy said.