The U.S. Army has
been able to achieve an extraordinary feat, by sustaining it's strength in a
long war (longer than World War II) using only volunteers. The main reason for
this success was the willingness of troops already in uniform to stay there.
Reenlistments have been higher than before the war on terror began in 2001. The
invasion of Iraq resulted in even higher reenlistment rates.
The army sets goals each year, for the
percentage of troops who will re-enlist when their current enlistment (usually
for four years) is up. This past year,about 14 percent of troops in each combat brigade were expected to
re-enlist. Nearly all brigades exceeded this figure, with the most spectacular
being the 4th brigade of the 25th Infantry division, which had 37 percent of
its troops reenlist.
The consistently higher re-enlistment
rates were the result of several things. First, there was patriotism and a
feeling that the wartime service was making a difference. Most of the troops
re-enlisting had been to Iraq or Afghanistan one or more times. They had seen
for themselves what was going on, and believed in it. Then there was the money.
Reenlistment bonuses averaging$10,000
(depending on rank and job) for the 64,000 troops that re-enlisted last year.
These bonuses, plus combat pay increases the average soldiers pay by 10-20
percent. It helps.
Then there is the fact that the troops
are professionals and they like their work. It's challenging, even though only
fifteen percent have combat jobs. But the benefits are great (including retirement
on half pay after twenty years) and you get respect from those you know and
work with. The media snipes a bit, inventing dark fantasies explaining this
unexplainable re-enlistment rate. But that's easy to ignore, and the troops
just keep signing up for more.