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Retention Remains High Military-Wide, Including in Combat Zone

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 11, 2007 – Regardless of what’s happening in terms of recruitment, soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines already serving are reenlisting at rates that surpass all expectations, according to defense officials.

Defense Department statistics for June, released yesterday, showed the Army missed its active-duty recruiting goal for the second consecutive month. Yet retention remained high across the board, 101 percent of goal for the active Army, 119 percent for the Army Reserve, and 107 percent for the Army National Guard, Maj. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman, told American Forces Press Service.

“Recruiting is important, but so is retention,” Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant secretary for public affairs, told Pentagon reporters today.

He said high retention rates help offset shortfalls on the recruiting side, particularly in light of the fact that the Army is ahead of its year-to-date recruiting goals. “Retention, to some degree, has been a mitigating factor because we have had very good retention rates and they have exceeded retention goals,” Whitman said.

Of particular interest, he said, are high retention rates among troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Last week, for example, 588 deployed soldiers reenlisted during a Fourth of July ceremony at Baghdad’s Al Faw Palace. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of Multinational Force Iraq, administered the oath of reenlistment.

The same day north of Baghdad at Camp Taji, the 1st Cavalry Division’s 1st “Ironhorse” Brigade Combat Team marked its 700th reenlistment during its current Iraqi deployment. Army Spc. Jason Fuduloff, a supply specialist from Battery B, 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery, raised his hand to reenlist for the third time, this time for four years.

Two days later, at Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Army Sgt. Christopher Flindee became the 200th soldier from the 25th Combat Aviation Brigade’s 209th Aviation Support Battalion to reenlist since its deployment.

In Taqaddum on July 2, Marine Sgt. Cyril Enos became the 33rd member of 2nd Marine Logistics Group to reenlist since the unit deployed six months ago. Ten of his fellow Marines were waiting for their paperwork to be processed so they, too, could reenlist.

These servicemembers recognize the challenges of military service, particularly in a combat zone, Petraeus noted during the Independence Day reenlistment ceremony.

Just three weeks earlier, Army Pfc. Daniel Weber proved that fact when the Humvee he’d hitched a ride on so he could reenlist at Forward Operating Base Marez hit a roadside bomb. Just hours after the blast blew Weber from the vehicle, the 1st Cavalry Division soldier, who serves with 1st Squadron, 9th Cavalry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Division, went ahead with his reenlistment plans.

“I was planning on reenlisting that day for a while now,” he said. “Why should I let something like this change my mind?” After all, Weber told his sergeant, “I want to re-up to get the guys that did this.”

Troops choose to reenlist for a wide range of reasons, said Army Sgt. 1st Class Brian Helgren, career counselor for 15th Sustainment Brigade at Camp Taji. Some stay for personal reasons or to continue a family tradition.

Some are enticed by retention bonuses, although Petraeus noted during the Independence Day reenlistment ceremony that money alone isn’t the reason.

“No bonus, no matter the size, can adequately compensate you for the contribution each of you has made and continues to make as a custodian of our nation’s defenses,” he told the group. “Nor can any amount of money compensate you adequately for the sacrifices you make serving here in Iraq or the burdens your loved ones face at home in your absence. And we certainly cannot put a price on the freedoms you defend or those we are trying to help the Iraqis establish and safeguard here in the land of the two rivers.”

Helgren said some troops choose to reenlist because they can’t imagine doing anything else.

“(The) bottom line is that soldiers love just serving their country and being in the Army, therefore making the Army a career,” he said.

Fuduloff, for example, said he reenlisted because he always knew he wanted to be a career soldier and believes in the Army’s mission in Iraq. “It’s an honor being here and being able to show my support and dedication to the cause,” he said.

(Information gathered by Army Pfc. Bradley J. Clark from 1st Cavalry Division, Spc. Karly Cooper from 13th Sustainment Brigade, and Spc. Bryanna Poulin from 209th Aviation Support Battalion, Marine Sgt. Jess Kent from Multinational Corps Iraq, and Marine Corps News Service was incorporated into this story.)

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