Military recruiters working hard to meet goals

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(Host) Like their counterparts around the country, Vermont military recruiters are having a hard time meeting enlistment goals.

The Vermont Army National Guard says the extensive deployments and the possibility of combat have made it more difficult to convince young people to sign up.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The military has boosted signing bonuses and raised the age limit up to age thirty-nine for Reserve and Army National Guard recruits. The goal is to reverse a four-month decline in enlistments that has left the military well short of its annual targets.

Lieutenant Colonel Daryl Ducharme leads the recruitment effort for the Vermont Army National Guard. He says the Guard here has seen the same recruiting difficulties as the regular Army. But he says the National Guard has an advantage because it’s a local force with roots in the state.

(Ducharme) “It benefits the community. It benefits the soldier. It benefits the school. It’s kind of a win-win. The one drawback for everybody is that yeah, there’s a chance you could deploy. And that’s kind of consistent across the country, the way we’re operating now.”

(Dillon) About 1,500 Vermont Guard soldiers are now serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.

Ducharme says the Guard has raised its signing bonuses and beefed up educational benefits to attract more recruits. The large-scale deployments have made the job more difficult.

(Ducharme) “It’s probably had more of an effect with the younger folks. Because when you’re dealing with younger high school graduates, the seventeen, eighteen-year-olds that potentially could enlist, I think their parents also have concerns. They are their children. They’re concerned about what could happen to them. They want to make sure that they’re going to get the training, and that they’re going to be taken care of and that the Army’s going to do the right thing.”

(Dillon) The Air National Guard says its enlistment numbers are still strong. Senior Master Sergeant Ron Goodall is the recruiting and retention superintendent for the Air Guard in Vermont. Goodall says recruitment hasn’t changed significantly over the last few years. But potential recruits are asking more questions about the possibility of deployment.

(Goodall) “They tend to want to be more aware of what their role is going to be when they join us. And once we overcome that and we tell them what their exact role is, then they’re comfortable. And that’s the only thing that seems to change. They probe a little more on what their duties and responsibilities are going to be and the likelihood of deployment.”

(Dillon) Goodall says the retention rate – the number of people who chose to re-enlist – remains high for the Air National Guard.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.

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