WASHINGTON: For the first time in more than 35 years the US military has met all of its annual recruiting goals, as hundreds of thousands of young people have enlisted despite the near-certainty that they will go to war.The Pentagon said on Tuesday that the economic downturn and rising unemployment, as well as bonuses and other factors, had prompted more qualified youths to enlist.The military has not seen such successes since 1973, when Congress ended conscription.Just a few years ago, the military routinely fell short of its recruiting targets. The army, in particular, has struggled to fill its ranks, admitting more high school drop-outs, overweight youth and felons.During the last budget year, which ended on September 30, recruiters met their targets in numbers and quality for all components of active-duty and reserve forces.”We delivered beyond anything the framers of the all-volunteer force would have anticipated,” Bill Carr, the Department of Defence’s deputy undersecretary for military personnel, said at a Pentagon media conference.The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are considered to be an unprecedented test of the military’s resilience.Its ability to bring fresh recruits into the force is critical not only to increasing the overall size of the army and marine corps, but to ensuring that additional units are available to rotate into conflict zones. Some army units sent overseas recently have been deployed at less than full strength.As lengthy, multiple combat tours place US forces under enormous stress, the willingness of young people to enlist has surprised even military leaders.The military is suffering ”strains that are tragic in personal lives, but institutionally the ground forces have held together and are not broken. They are even recovering a little bit,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.Overall, the Defence Department attracted 168,900 active-duty recruits, or 103 per cent of the goal for the fiscal year, officials said. It reached 104 per cent of the goal for recruitment of National Guard and reserve forces.The quality of recruits also improved, with about 95 per cent reporting that they had received high school diplomas.Mr Carr said strong recruitment was driven by economic conditions that have made civilian jobs scarce, along with other factors such as pay increases and investment in recruiting budgets.Mr Carr said the Pentagon spent about $US10,000 ($11,000) on advertising, marketing, recruiters and other budget items per recruit. For the army, it was $US22,000.Mr Carr also credited hefty enlistment bonuses, saying 40 per cent of recruits received an average bonus of $US14,000, up from the $US12,000 average in 2008.The Washington Post
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