Army takes older recruits to meet recruiting goals
By Will Dunham
Wednesday, June 21, 2006; 11:09 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, aiming to make its recruiting goals amid the Iraq war, raised its maximum enlistment age by another two years on Wednesday, while the Army Reserve predicted it will miss its recruiting target for a second straight year.
People can now volunteer to serve in the active-duty Army or the part-time Army Reserve and National Guard up to their 42nd birthday after the move aimed at increasing the number of people eligible to sign up, officials said.
It marked the second time this year the Army has boosted the maximum age for new volunteers, raising the ceiling from age 35 to 40 in January before now adding two more years.
More than three years into the war, the Army continues to provide the bulk of U.S. ground forces in Iraq. Army officials have acknowledged the war has made some recruits and their families wary about volunteering.
The Army Reserve, along with the regular Army and Army National Guard, missed its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal, and it currently lags its fiscal 2006 year-to-date goal by 4 percent.
Army Lt. Gen. Jack Stultz, the new Army Reserve chief, said he does not expect the Reserve to reach its goal of 36,000 recruits for fiscal 2006, which ends September 30.
"We think we'll come in right around that 96 (percent), 97 percent range," Stultz told reporters.
The Army Reserve is a part-time force of federal troops who can be summoned to active duty by the Pentagon in times of need. The Army National Guard is another part-time force whose soldiers are under the command of state governors for use in emergencies such as natural disasters, but also can be mobilized to active duty by the Pentagon.
The Pentagon has made extensive use of these part-time soldiers in Iraq, although the number deployed has been cut significantly.
Stultz said his recruiting numbers were hurt by regular Army personnel opting to stay on active duty and reservists moving from part-time service to active duty with the Army.
Julia Bobick, an Army Recruiting Command spokeswoman, said the decision to raise the maximum enlistment age "is not an act of desperation," but rather the latest prudent step intended to attract qualified recruits.
These older recruits must pass the same physical standards and medical examination as younger ones, the Army said. However, those between 40 and 42 will face additional cardiovascular screening, Bobick said.
"Of course, not everyone is going to be (physically able to serve). But those older recruits who can meet the physical demands of Army service make excellent soldiers because they bring with them a maturity and a skill level that some of our young recruits don't have yet," Bobick said.
The Army has taken numerous steps to help recruiting, including offering various financial incentives, adding recruiters and hiring a new advertising agency. It even relaxed its ban on certain types of tattoos to attract recruits who otherwise would have been disqualified from serving.
The U.S. military moved to an all-volunteer force in 1973, during the tumult of the Vietnam War era. Some analysts have said if the military cannot attract enough recruits, the United States might have to consider reinstating the draft.