Local News

Down economy boosts military recruiting

Posted September 1, 2009 6:31 p.m. EDT
Updated September 1, 2009 6:43 p.m. EDT

— In July, more than 15,000 men and women entered the U.S. active-duty armed forces, helping all branches of the military to meet or exceed their monthly quotas.

Despite the job hazards presented by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army expects to exceed its recruitment goal of 65,000 people in fiscal 2009, which ends Sept. 30. Recruiters credit the booming military market to the economic downturn that has led to tens of thousands of layoffs since last fall.

"Any time the economy is down is, the enlistments are always going up. So it's always good for us," Army Capt. Nathan Shanor said.

Before the downturn, officials said, many of the more than 1,600 Army recruiting stations nationwide struggled to find applicants meeting the minimum education requirements of having a high school diploma or an equivalent degree.

"Now, we're getting a lot of high school grads – even college graduates – that are looking to come in because they're trying to get stabilization," Sgt. First Class Zackariah Craig said.

To expand the recruiting pool, the Army three years ago boosted the maximum age for active-duty forces to 42. Since then, officials said, the Army has been able to meet its yearly recruitment goals.

Staff Sgt. Calvin Davis said his job as recruiter is part pitchman, part counselor and all business.

"I tell them the truth," Davis said. "Obviously, we deploy, regardless of whether you're in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force or Marines."

Donteloe Ross, 18, said he was willing to accept the risk of going to war, saying college isn't the right fit for him right now.

"I know that's always a big possibility," Ross said. "It's a job. Somebody's got to do it. That's how I look at it."

Nationwide, 17 Army recruiters have committed suicide since 2001. Last year, the Army began examining recruiters for job- or combat-related stress, and recruiters in the Fayetteville area said aspects of the jobs have improved since then.

"All the training that I've gone through (shows that) they've done measures to fix that, to make it less stressful," Shanor said.

"As a recruiter, it's only stressful if you make it stressful," Davis said.