Guard Seeks Stabilization Guarantee to Attract Recruits
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 30, 2004 The Army National Guard is seeking permission to "stabilize" prior-service enlistees for a year after they join the unit, said Brig. Gen. Frank Grass, the deputy director of the Army National Guard.
The Army Guard will miss its fiscal 2004 enlistment goal of 56,000 by about 5,000 soldiers, Grass estimated during an interview with American Forces Press Service on July 29. "We're just about 2 percent under our authorized end- strength of 350,000."
Army officials stressed that no unit will deploy to a combat zone without full manning and the best training. The problem also varies in different parts of the United States. Unlike the active component or the Army Reserve, each state recruits its Guard members.
The problem with recruiting is in attracting prior-service personnel to the Guard. In the past, 50 percent of the personnel entering each year were prior service and 50 percent non-prior service.
As of June 30, the Army Guard has attracted 58 percent non-prior service and 42 percent prior-service personnel.
"It's quite obvious why," Glass said. "If you are coming off of active duty and you want to start a career or a family or you want to go to college, you will probably end up getting mobilized again."
At the same time, the active component has the stop-loss program in place. "So the availability of prior-service personnel is way down," he said.
Again, as of June 30, the Army Guard is about 3,500 under where officials thought they would be.
To attract prior service personnel, "we have to give those soldiers an offer of stability," Grass said. "If they've just returned from a combat zone, or an overseas deployment and they are getting off active duty, we'd really like to offer them two years stability.
"In other words, unless there is another emergency, you can join the National Guard and we will not deploy you for two years."
The Guard has asked DoD for a one-year stabilization for these prior service personnel, which would be a policy change. Grass said he expects a decision within a month.
The general said this kind of a program will help attract these soldiers to the Guard. "If they know they are stabilized, they can kind of map out their lives," he said.
The National Guard depends on the prior-service personnel. "They have tremendous combat experience, and we need them in the National Guard," he said.
Other enticements to join may be needed. He said the states are examining bigger enlistment bonuses and more generous college tuition program.
This kind of investment actually saves the National Guard money in the long run, Grass said, since it does not have to pay for the training of prior- service personnel.
On the other hand, recruiting a high school student takes a significant effort in time and resources. "Recruiters have to lay out the history of the military and explain why it is important to serve the nation," Grass said.
So the Guard will do two things to help the recruiting effort: Add 500 National Guard recruiters to the rolls and shift advertising money from attracting prior-service personnel to the non-prior service effort.
These steps will come too late to help this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Guard officials said any shortfall will be added to the recruiting goal for fiscal 2005, which begins Oct. 1.