September 9, 2009:
Two years ago, the U.S. Army National Guard (NG) had fixed its recruiting problems and restored itself to its authorized strength of 358,000. But now the National Guard has been ordered to cut its strength nine percent. At the same time, the recession, and fewer NG units being sent overseas, has brought even more business for recruiters. The NG has long been seen as a good part time job, and these days, any kind of job, in some parts of the country, is a good job. So now the NG recruiters have been ordered to take a lot fewer people and be a lot more picky. It's still possible to join the NG, but the standards have been raised quite a bit.
Five years ago, the Guard was nearly ten percent short of its annual recruiting goal (56,000 recruits). With some effort, the recruiting problems were fixed, as well as those that led to an increase in the number of people who were not re-enlisting. There were several reasons for those problems. NG troops were dismayed at how many of them were being called up for duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Added to that there were breakdowns in the army bureaucracy, resulting in Guard troops getting paid late, or not at all for some benefits.
In addition to fixing the paperwork problems, the number of recruiters was tripled, and more bonuses were offered for people with needed skills. Many recruits got $20,000 for just signing up (and staying in). Some states added benefits as well (like free tuition at state universities.) NG troops were told how often they could expect to be called up in the future, which took care of a major gripe. Troops were offered $2,000 bonuses for each new recruit they brought in. This was a major success, taking advantage of the fact that most Guard recruiting had always been word-of-mouth.
But now most of the bonuses are gone, because so many people are trying to join. Recruiters are being assigned to other jobs. The higher standards may have to be lowered a bit, though, because recruit numbers were a little less than expected during the last few months. While it may be easier to get in over the next few months, the good old days of big bonuses and easy admission are gone.