By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10, 2006 – All four services met their active-duty recruiting goals for the past fiscal year, but to keep the momentum going, the military needs to do a better job of communicating the "nobility of service" and of reaching out to adults who influence young people's decisions about joining the military, a senior defense official said. Curtis Gilroy, the Defense Department's director of accession policy, said recruiters overcame four major challenges as they achieved their recruiting goals for fiscal 2006 in terms of both numbers and quality:
A growing national economy with low unemployment rates;
High recruiting goals, particularly for the Army and Marine Corps;
The ongoing global war on terror; and
Decreased tendency of adult influencers to encourage military service.
Continuing to meet recruiting goals in the face of these challenges will require the proper resources, applied in the proper ways, Gilroy said. The services will need enough recruiters located in the proper places and armed with the proper enticements to continue attracting quality recruits into their ranks, he said.
Gilroy said proper funding is critical to recruiting, but that the services must determine how much of their recruiting budgets to channel into advertising versus bonuses versus educational benefits and other enticements. "These are all important budgetary issues that clearly affect the outcome of the recruiting mission," he said.
As the services shape their recruiting programs for the current fiscal year, Gilroy said, it's critical that they find ways to reach out to adult influencers -- parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches and clergy.
"Young people look to these influencers for advice as they decide whether to go to college, get a job, join the military or explore another option after high school," he said. "So I think it's very, very important that a campaign be directed to our influencers" so they can help young people make informed decisions.
The military isn't for everyone, he acknowledged. "But for those who are interested, we need to be able to provide a reasonable picture of what they could expect ... in terms of the benefits -- monetary and the benefits derived from the nobility of military service."
Gilroy said he'd like to see senior leaders speak out more about the "nobility of service" and the importance of the military mission and what the global war on terror really means.
He cited a recent Army survey that showed patriotism, not benefits, is the number one reason people join the military today. "That's very different from what it was several years ago," he said.
More than 1.6 million young people have enlisted in the military since Sept. 11, 2001, he noted. "This is a tribute to the attitude of our young men and women across the country today," he said.