The military analysis blog Strategypage.com always has something interesting and topical. Case in point is a discussion of the US militaryís recruiting efforts. (Scroll down to the post dated Sept. 1, 2005.)
If youíve been following the news then youíve probably gotten the impression that service in Iraq is so unpalatable that itís almost impossible to get anyone to sign up for military service. SP says that this is not the case, with reenlistment and recruiting rates for combat units exceeding expectations. Iraq is a selling point instead of a liability.
But there is a kernel of truth to the claims that recruitment is down, but thatís for support units. You know, the men and women who drive the supply trucks and pull maintenance on the equipment. The author of the post is careful to point out that this is mainly the fault of the efforts to attract non-combat troops, since the possibility of serving while under fire has been downplayed by the US military for the past few decades. It got so bad that even basic combat training for support units has been neglected, as the story of Jessica Lynch so clearly illustrates. This isnít the case anymore since training in basic infantry skills are now taught to anyone, but the perception of helplessness remains.
The thing that really got my attention from the post was the final paragraph. The author states that many Leftist groups will denigrate military service, which will discourage prospective recruits from signing up. What seems very odd to me is the way that some supposedly pro-immigrant groups are also joining in the chorus of negativity. Since a career in the armed forces has traditionally been one of the ways for new immigrants to get ahead relatively quickly, arenít these groups doing a disservice to the very people they claim to be concerned about?
There has to be a reason why these groups are willing to sabotage their core mission like that. I think it all has to do with money, and I wouldnít be at all surprised to find that most of their donations come from dedicated Liberals. Since the Iraq experiment is seen by many Democrats as a way to strip political support from their party and so must be opposed at all costs, itís no wonder that supposedly pro-immigrant organizations are singing the same old Liberal song.
It is a pity, though.
Chicago Boyz reader and former serviceman Fred Lapides sent me an Email, pointing out that the very articles I linked to above reported that the National Guard is also having troubel with recruiting. Monthly goals have only been met once in more than a year and a half, and the July figures were only about 80% of the target number. Fred says that I’m not being very scholarly by not mentioning this fact.
He might be right, but I look at it as just another aspect of the situation. After all, the National Guard has traditionally been seen as an organization where someone could earn the benefits of serving in the military while avoiding combat. (Think of those guys who avoided the raft during Vietnam by serving in the Guard.) That means that they rely on the same class of recruits as the support units, and since both the Guard and the support units are now called upon to serve in a combat zone…
Well, you get the idea. The point is that falling recruiting numbers in the support services will be reflected in those of the National Guard, and for the same reasons.
But the Guard also relies on another source of manpower, and that is discharged or retired veterans that aren’t ready to completely give up their military careers. There’s going to be fewer of those guys around mainly because the rate of discharges has slowed due to the WoT, and also because the guys who would normally quit the regular military and join the Guard are reenlisting instead.