Peace Time: October 31, 2003

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Despite the large number of reservists and National Guard troops mobilized, troops are staying in uniform. The Army National Guard, which has had the largest proportion of troops called up, has so far only lost ten percent of troops to attrition (not re-enlisting) among units returning from overseas. The normal rate of attrition, for all National Guard units, is 17 percent. What is probably keeping the re-enlistment rate up is efforts by the army to get reservists off active duty, and making plans to limit the active duty time in the future. Last week, for example, the number of reservists on active duty fell another 1,289, to 157,605. But that number is going up in the next few months, as units are called up for training, and movement to Iraq to replace reservists coming home. Meanwhile, the number of new recruits for the active army, and the army reserve and National Guard, continue match needs. For the fourth year in a row, the army met its annual goal for new recruits. In the past year, 74,132 men and women enlisted (against a goal of 73,800.) The army reserve for 27,365 (against a goal of 26,400.) A number of things are at work here. First, it's important to remember that American troops don't hesitate to gripe when things are rough. It's an ancient military tradition. But once out of danger, morale makes a remarkable (and pretty predictable) come back. And then there is the unemployment issue. Many (the army isn't saying how many, and they probably don't know) troops were unemployed when they were called up. All of a sudden they were employed again, although if the unemployment rate continues to go down, going on active duty will be even more unpopular. But the high unemployment rate, and uncertain economy, causes troops to stay in the reserves, and on active duty. Finally, there's patriotism. There is an enemy out there trying to kill Americans. While this is hardly World War II, we did have another Pearl Harbor and many of the troops have not forgotten September 11, 2001.

 


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