Guard Retention Concerns DoD, But Exodus Not Expected
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2004 Though the Army National Guard and Army Reserve specifically and the reserve components in general have been meeting their recruiting and retention goals, DoD officials still are concerned and are looking for ways to address retention.
But DoD officials do not expect an exodus of Guard soldiers after they return from duty in Afghanistan and Iraq, contrary to news reports today.
Those reports cite a National Guard Bureau survey of 5,000 volunteers from 15 states that said the number of Guard soldiers who choose to leave the military could jump to 20 to 22 percent a year among those who have served long overseas tours. At the end of 2003, the figure was roughly 16 percent.
"First, this is a 'voluntary' survey," said Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Dan Stoneking. "If you have a survey at a dining facility about the food, who is going to fill it out?" But Stoneking said the National Guard deserves some credit for conducting the survey and anticipating problems. "This gives them time to put together a program for recruiting and retention," he said.
National Guard officials said people should not overreact to the survey. It is just one tool they use to measure retention intentions, and it should not be viewed out of context, they said.
Guard officials pointed out that history indicates many soldiers who now say they intend to leave the service ultimately will re-enlist once they get home and spend time with their families.
During a recent trip to Asia, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers commented on recruiting and retention efforts during an interview with the military's Stars and Stripes newspaper. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said American service men and women are stepping forward to re-enlist, "as I would expect. We are a nation at war. This is the time for our military to rise to the occasion and serve the nation at a time like no other."
Myers said active duty and reserve component personnel are stepping forward to serve. What's more, he said, young Americans are enlisting to help fight the war on terror.
"This is the time to raise your right hand and swear 'to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic,'" he said. "There has never been a more dire threat to our security and not just to the United States, but to our friends and allies."
As of Jan. 21, 194,234 reserve component personnel were on active duty, DoD statistics show. The vast majority 165,068 -- are National Guardsmen and Army Reservists. The Naval Reserve has 1,918 people on active duty, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 19,383; and the Marine Corps Reserve, 6,790. The Coast Guard has activated 1,057 reservists. The numbers include members assigned to units and individual augmentees.