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Marines Hit Recruiting Goal, Won't Lower Bar

October 14, 2005|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Unlike the Army, the Marine Corps met its national recruiting goals for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 and has no plans to lower its standards for recruits, officials said.

The Marine Corps achieved 102% of its goal for enlistments in the reserves and 100% of its goal for active-duty enlistments, according to figures released by the Defense Department.

The Army's figures were 84% for the Army Reserve, 80% for the National Guard, and 92% for its active-duty force. As the nation's largest service, the Army needs to attract a larger number of recruits than the Marine Corps, the Navy or the Air Force.

To aid in its recruitment program, the Army announced last week that it had increased from 2% to 4% the percentage of recruits it would accept who score near the bottom of the military aptitude test, so-called Category IV recruits.

The Marine Corps will continue restricting Category IV recruits to 1% of the total, officials said.

Also, Army officials said they were lowering from 67% to 60% the Army's goal for signing recruits who scored in the top half on the aptitude test.

The Marine goal remains 63%. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 69.5% of Marine recruits scored in the top half of the test, said Master Sgt. James Edwards of the recruiting command at Quantico, Va.

With casualties mounting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army and Marines have found recruiting more difficult. Overcoming opposition from parents of potential recruits is often the biggest challenge, officials said.

Both services have added recruiters. For several months this year the Marine Corps missed its monthly goal for recruits.

Military sociologist David Segal, director of the Center for Research on Military Organization at the University of Maryland, said the Army's recruiting problems are partly due to a decade-long decline in enlistments among African Americans, who have come to doubt whether the military is an equal-opportunity employer.

The Marine Corps has a smaller percentage of African Americans in its ranks and thus is not as affected by the decline, Segal said. African Americans make up 23% of the Army and 12% of the Marine Corps, according to a recent Government Accountability Office study.

Also, Segal said the Marine Corps has done a better job of overcoming opposition among parents of all races to having their children enlist. "My sense is that more Marines come from Marine families so the parents are already on board," he said.

Marine recruiters send a video to the parents of would-be recruits explaining how boot camp will make their son or daughter more physically fit and more mature. School counselors are invited to visit boot camps at San Diego and Parris Island, S.C.

For fiscal 2005, the Marine Corps had recruited 8,350 men and women for the reserves and 32,955 for the active-duty force. Of the four services, only the Army missed its active-duty recruiting goal. The Army had hoped to enlist 80,000 recruits but fell short at 73,373.

The Air Force Reserve (113%) and Marine Reserve (102%) exceeded their recruitment goals.

The Army and Marine Corps differ in their advertising pitches to potential recruits.

In their pop-up ads on the Internet, for example, the Army says, "Join the U.S. Army. Discover all the opportunities the U.S. Army has to offer," while the Marine Corps asks "Do you have what it takes? Contact a Marine recruiter."

In one of the Army's television ads, an African American youth tells his mother he is enlisting so that he can earn money for college.

In a TV ad that debuted Oct. 1, the Marines emphasize the demands of boot camp.

"The main thing we show, or sell, if you will, to young men and women are the intangibles: self-discipline, service to country, service to team," said Maj. Joe Kloppel, spokesman for the Western Recruiting Region based in San Diego.

"Those things don't change with the economy," he said.

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