Attrition: The Guard Retires


July 27, 2009:  The U.S. Army National Guard is reducing its strength, from 362,000 to 358,000. The additional troops are no longer needed, because National Guard units are not needed as much as they were during the peak years in Iraq (2004-7). The reduction is going to be done by raising recruiting standards, and eliminating re-enlistment bonuses. Among the changes for recruiters is a reducing of the minimum age from 42 to 35 and the elimination of medical and bad conduct (criminal record) waivers. Normally, a lot of medical and criminal justice problems (an arrest record, even a minor one) would keep you from enlisting. But during 2004-7, more exemptions for these problems were granted. No more. Also, commanders have been told to grant discharges more liberally (whether the soldier wants to get out, or the commander wants to "fire" a misbehaving trooper.)

Three years ago, the U.S. Army National Guard was four percent short of its authorized strength of 350,000. That was an improvement, because the previous Summer, it was five percent short. The National Guard is a reserve outfit that expects to be called to active duty mainly for local emergencies. But since September 11, 2001, many Guard members have been called up, many to spend a year in Iraq. This discouraged many from joining, or staying in, the Guard. The downward trend was reversed by establishing limits for how long, and how often, Guard troops could be called up for active duty. After those 14-18 month (including training and preparation time) activations for Iraq and Afghanistan, the troops were wondering how often this would happen.

Another incentive was money. Most members of the Guard make more money on active duty, than they do in their civilian jobs, and the army added some more money and cleared up problems some troops had getting paid on time. More benefits were added, including some that had been sought for a long time (like family health care for troops called to active duty.)

Since then, National Guard recruiting has continued to gain ground, to the point where it had too many people, and recruiters had more people applying, than could be handled.




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