Thank you, sir, may I have another?
July 19, 2005 6:07 AM   Subscribe

US Army re-enlistments are exceeding goals. Amid earlier stories of how the Army (and the Marine Corps) are struggling to enlist enough new troops, here's a surprise -- thanks largely to bonuses, a lot people who are in are electing to stay in. (Found via the blog of an editor of my hometown paper.)
posted by alumshubby (43 comments total)
...Thirty-five percent of Army re-enlistments have come in combat zones, said Maj. Gerald Conway, who oversees retention policies for the Army. ...

What percent of the total Army is now serving in a combat zone? And, like the lowered recruiting targets, have they lowered their re-enlistment targets as well? And, where's the extra money coming from for these bonuses? And, is it just the senior staff reenlisting (who may be career military anyway), or a broad swath? How many total Army soldiers do we have?
posted by amberglow at 6:14 AM on July 19, 2005

From the article:

Re-enlistment rates the past three years have been at least 6% above the service's goals for the 500,000-member active Army. There are about 105,000 Army soldiers in Iraq, including members of the National Guard and Reserve.

Dunno about the other questions, but I doubt it's "just senior staff reenlisting" -- there are probably soldiers staying in for a second hitch, so presumably some of theem would be below, say, E-5. Depends on how you define "senior."
posted by alumshubby at 6:22 AM on July 19, 2005

Of course, the government may be threatening stop-loss retentions, and the soldiers figure if they're stuck in the army anyway, their families should at least be able to buy a new car or something.
posted by Doohickie at 6:30 AM on July 19, 2005

10k is the average bonus. That's quite a chunk of change. I love how the article then goes on to qoute someone talking about how people are really reenlisting because they believe in what they're doing. Perhaps, but I don't see how you can know that if you give people up to 150k to reenlist. Sure, I believe in my work, but I would show up a lot less regularly if I weren't paid for it, and my work almost never involves getting shot at.
posted by OmieWise at 6:32 AM on July 19, 2005

I don't tend to trust the numbers, since - as we've seen in the past - the army keeps changing its recruiting goals to make them closer to reality. Why not the re-enlistment goals too?
posted by fungible at 6:46 AM on July 19, 2005

Meanwhile, George Bush, our commander-in-chief, has yet to make one... ONE recruitment speech, or even statement asking the young men and women of America to join the army and fight for their country.

No, no... it's much easier to throw money at the problem. This won't make up anything close to the troop level requirements that are needed, nor will it solve any long-term problems. At best, it's the political equivalent of throwing good money after bad. At worst, it's crass manipulation, as Doohickie points out.

The only thing this story lacks is some spin that this is an example of how the Bush Administration is Doing More to help America's poor.
posted by mkultra at 6:53 AM on July 19, 2005

Re-enlistment rates the past three years have been at least 6% above the service's goals for the 500,000-member active Army.
I love that quote. That means in 2003, 2004, and 2005, we beat our target (51,000) by ~3,060 re-enlistments. The only thing they fail to mention is that in 2003 we lowered our target from 57,000. Interestingly enough, our standing army was at 480,000 then, and now it's at 500,000. Seems to me the targets should be going up, not down. The other interesting point is the average bonus in 2003 was only 5k, so in effect we've doubled bonuses to remain at the same shortfall.

2003 re-enlistment reduced from 57,000 to 51,000
posted by Crash at 6:53 AM on July 19, 2005

At what point do we begin questioning numbers and tactics by unamed officials? It's widely known that these numbers for both recruitment and reenlistment have been monkeyed with to paint a rosy picture. Yet people still give government and political operatives (let alone the media) the benefit of the doubt.
posted by rzklkng at 7:01 AM on July 19, 2005

You have to admit that it does make sense, given that a soldier will inevitably be pressed into more overseas service at the end of his regular commitment -- only this time in a reserve unit with less-trained squad-mates and poorer equipment -- to reenlist, especially if huge bonuses are put into play.

It's the reserve units that suffer from equipment shortages and give rise to situations where the civilian parents of reservists have to go out and buy body armor and radio equipment for their kids serving in the field (thanks Rummy, you're really running this war professionally!). It only makes sense to want to stay in a unit that at least is given the tools by which they can do the job.
posted by clevershark at 7:10 AM on July 19, 2005

Reserve and National Guard members from all of the armed services make up about 35 percent of the troops in Iraq, a share that is expected to drop to about 30 percent by next year; the vast majority are from the Army Reserve and Army National Guard.

But as these returning troops settle back into their civilian lives, the Army is running perilously low on its Reserve and National Guard soldiers who largely fill certain critical support jobs, like military police and civil affairs officers and truck drivers...

"By next fall, we'll have expended our ability to use National Guard brigades as one of the principal forces," said Gen. Barry McCaffrey, a retired four-star Army commander who was dispatched to Iraq last month to assess the operation. "We're reaching the bottom of the barrel."

Part-Time Forces on Active Duty Decline Steeply
posted by y2karl at 7:23 AM on July 19, 2005

Good point clevershark. There's been reports that soldiers deployed overseas are being given the choice to re-up and get a bonus, or be "stop-lossed" for 2 years and get nothing. Which choice would you choose?
posted by Crash at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2005

The Army is so strained by operations in Iraq and Afghanistan it would have a hard time responding to a new major crisis, a new report said...

The National Guard is already about 25 percent below its recruitment target, and the prospect of frequent deployments tends to drive that number lower. The Guard recruits many of its soldiers from the active-duty Army. Because the Guard is so heavily used in Iraq, soldiers know if they join they are likely to end up being redeployed quickly...

Rand says Army overstretched by Iraq
posted by y2karl at 7:30 AM on July 19, 2005

On the recruiting front, with only three months to go in fiscal 2005, the Army is 40 percent short of its goal of recruiting about 80,000 new troops for the year. To meet that threshold, it would have to exceed its recruiting goals by an average of 2,600 individuals in each month.

Army stretched too thin by fighting simultaneous wars, study says
posted by y2karl at 7:34 AM on July 19, 2005

Well, my friend in the army is thinking about re-upping, even though he was looking forward to getting out, originally. The tax-free bonus is a good part of the incentive, and the truth that he'd be stuck over there anyway is another.

As for how good this news is, it is kind of like how they trumpet the budget being $100 billion less than predicted. Nevermind that they're including Social Security overflow to bail themselves out, or that it'd be record-settingly bad were it not for BushCo's performance in the last 4 years...

I'm just glad they increased the bonus for the troops anyway.
and hopefully, they'll restore the medical care programs for the troops coming back, too, someday.
posted by Busithoth at 7:35 AM on July 19, 2005

Attn. y2karl - RAND has a contract currently for figuring out Draft Alternatives which I haven't read in its entirety.

And how are we currently achieveing these goals? Why, by gutting the army? They're accepting lower educational requirements, shorter enlistment periods (like they're gonna let you go), and of course, dangling legalization in front of illegal aliens.

I'm sure by this is all over, we'll be able to go to war with "the army we want" and not the "army we have". /Rumsfeld-Kung-Foo Hands.
posted by rzklkng at 7:41 AM on July 19, 2005

hopefully, they'll restore the medical care programs for the troops coming back, too, someday.

LOL! What do you think the "bonus" is for?
posted by mkultra at 7:45 AM on July 19, 2005

Wow, bribes work. How surprising.

and of course, dangling legalization in front of illegal aliens.

Are you serious?

Oh my.
posted by Ynoxas at 7:48 AM on July 19, 2005

From billmon's Whiskey Bar:
For the moment he had shut his ears to the remoter noises and was listening to the stuff that streamed out of the telescreen. It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it. The fabulous statistics continued to pour out of the telescreen.

George Orwell
posted by Aknaton at 8:06 AM on July 19, 2005

From Crash's link:

March 05, it was time for both to make decision to re-enlist. As already under orders to redeploy; as already under Stop Loss; their choices = 1) don't re-enlist but you will wind up in Iraq anyway under Stop Loss or 2) re-enlist and while you'll still wind up in Iraq under Stop Loss, at least you'll have the attractive bonus being offered.

And Rumsfeld, Bush etc. apparently can point to this and say, "See! They're volunteering to stay in and help freedom to emerge in Iraq!"

Geez, that's sickening...
posted by alumshubby at 8:15 AM on July 19, 2005

I'm calling bullshit on the article, primarily because it doesn't address a few important issues:

1> The Army, unable to achieve its recruitment goals, decided to adjust them down recently. Voila... instant success!

2> The Army has been using deceptive and manipulative methods to get people to reenlist. These recruiting threats happened at Fort Carlson, Colorado and at Fort Bragg too.

3> Soldiers are returning home with their units, only to get reassigned to new units which are being deployed to Iraq or Afghaninstan. Under such circumstances, reenlisting in order to avoid reassignments sounds like a good idea.

4> Soldiers who sign up for a set period of time are being told that they have to stay in the military beyond the amount of time they signed up for, often by one or two years.

Most of the soldiers I know who go to Iraq don't want to go back, regardless of cash bonuses. A few thousand extra dollars does little to make up for spending another year of your life over there. Unfortunately, abusive changes in military policy and deceptive reenlistment practices in the Army are the norm lately, and not the exception.
posted by insomnia_lj at 8:15 AM on July 19, 2005

I highly doubt this accounts for all re-enlistments, or even most, but weren't there reports of people being effectively blackmailed into re-enlisting? "If you don't re-enlist, we're sending you to Iraq for the rest of your time with us"?
posted by Anonymous at 8:15 AM on July 19, 2005

Sheesh, you all are so boringly predictable. I could have written this thread before I read it (except for the usernames), and been about 90% right.
posted by gd779 at 8:26 AM on July 19, 2005

Not at all surprising. Most of those eligible to re-enlist are junior NCOs, who've done well in the Army but don't have a college degree or significant marketable technical skills.

With good re-enlistment bonuses, the all in-compensation they can earn during a second term, particularly if they have a spouse and kids (family allowances increase effective pay), beats the pants off anything they're likely to make out of service. It's going to be very appealling to those who want to take care of their families, but don't have the appetite to use their GI Bill and get a college degree.
posted by MattD at 8:28 AM on July 19, 2005

I can't believe any newspaper would be so stupid as to fall for this. The recruitment goal was X. It became clear that wasn't going to happen, not even close, actually. So the army lowered the recruitment goal to 1/2X.

Hey, lookee! We made our recruitment goal! Good for you. We are still looking at sending Iraq troops back for their third combat deployment.

What a bunch of transparent bullshit. At some point the media becomes complicit in the lies, when it is so damn easy to track them down.
posted by teece at 9:17 AM on July 19, 2005

I wonder... I'd have to look these numbers up, and as it's only a tickle of curiousity, I'll just hope that by mentioning it someone who does actual research on this (Karl?) will just post an article that answers the question.
I know that economists figure the value of a life by the amount of dollars that someone has to take to a corresponding decrease in projected life expectancy. I wonder, if the risk can be calculated for a soldier, what the average $10,000 bonus means in terms of self-valued life...
(I'd wager that it's actually pretty good if you don't take into account the risk of being maimed, but lower than I would take if you do...)
posted by klangklangston at 9:17 AM on July 19, 2005

Where recruiting runs strongest - Indiana takes first place.
posted by teaperson at 9:19 AM on July 19, 2005

"there are lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics"

-Samuel Clemens
posted by markovitch at 9:36 AM on July 19, 2005

All you guys and your stupid biased anti-american facts. Why can't you guys believe in America's Greatness like good patriots?
posted by Heywood Mogroot at 9:55 AM on July 19, 2005

I can't believe any newspaper would be so stupid as to fall for this.

Either USA Today or Chicago Sun Times ran it on the front page.
posted by drezdn at 10:12 AM on July 19, 2005

markovitch - it's actually Benjamin Disraeli.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 11:34 AM on July 19, 2005

It's been my experience with friends and family members that once they get in.. especially once they've seen combat, it's not always tempting to come back..

I heard that too about Vietnam veterans, that day-to-day live isn't stimulating enough after combat. Dull and quiet except for whatever ghosts decide to follow you home.. It just makes more sense to stay out there.

I assume there are veterans and military here with a lot more authority on that phenomenon than I have, but it's worth mentioning.
posted by onanon at 11:40 AM on July 19, 2005

It's been my experience with friends and family members that once they get in.. especially once they've seen combat, it's not always tempting to come back..

I've also seen studies from WWII, onanon, that the majority of soldiers that spent more than X months in active combat duty (I forget the time), became basically useless as soldiers, AND had major psych problems outside of soldiering.

And it seems that unless we come home, we're going to be subjecting soldiers to three tours of duty. I sure hope they are working hard to make sure that the third-tirmers get guard duty in the middle of nowhere.
posted by teece at 11:52 AM on July 19, 2005

As former military it doesn't surprise me that retention is fairly high. When you're in combat you form tight bonds, and it is to be expected that many soldiers don't want to leave their comrades-in-arms. Sure they'd rather not be in Iraq, but if their buddies are going to be there, then they feel obligated to be there as well. Bonuses help those on the fence. But my experience has been that many if not most re-enlistments are because the soldiers feel a strong sense of duty.
As for whether the retention goals have been fudged, I don't know. It is my understanding that the combination of recruitment goals, retention goals, stop loss, etc must equal the targeted end strength numbers. So there may some room to play, but I think it all has to add up at the end of the day.
posted by forforf at 12:12 PM on July 19, 2005

markovitch & PurplePorpoise: You might both be right: Twain attributed it to Disraeli, but not from firsthand knowledge, and there is little evidence Disraeli himself actually said it.
posted by bafflegab at 12:29 PM on July 19, 2005

I'm with forforf and onandon; I met a guy the other day, an E-4, who was getting back in after a year of civilian life, to go back to Iraq. He had a C.I.B.; he told me it was better being over there.
posted by atchafalaya at 12:31 PM on July 19, 2005

...kind of like how they trumpet the budget being $100 billion less than predicted. Nevermind that they're including Social Security overflow to bail themselves out...

They're also not including the more than $314 billion that we've spent in Afghanistan and Iraq. "The campaigns are costing up to $8 billion per month." $8,000,000,000
posted by kirkaracha at 12:49 PM on July 19, 2005

Since all Irak and Afghanistan money is off-budget anyway, I pity the fool who actually swallows the bullshit about the budget deficit being under control.

You guys need to face the fact that 5 to 10 years from now you're still going to be paying for "Iraqi freedom" in so many ways... and all to have the privilege of having seen it turn into an Iranian-style Mullah-cracy.
posted by clevershark at 1:41 PM on July 19, 2005

I'm with forforf and onandon; I met a guy the other day, an E-4, who was getting back in after a year of civilian life, to go back to Iraq. He had a C.I.B.; he told me it was better being over there.

My old roomie was a Ranger in Afghanistan. He got out into civilian life, was in Guard, then decided to reup and go to Iraq. And most of his friends decided to also. The actual reasoning was "If there's a chance I'll go as a member of the National Guard, I'd rather be on the frontlines than guarding a Patriot missile battery as Guard." (almost an exact quote) And he didn't get all these incentives. I'm sure the truth is a mix of the bribe theory and some having an overly powerful sense of patriotism/duty/honor.
posted by Drylnn at 3:52 PM on July 19, 2005

Sometimes when everybody gets to reenlist, you find yourself serving with some people that really, really should not be around firearms. Good that they are kinda sorta being ?watched? by Uncle Sam, but still....

Stop-loss helps to encourage reeinlistment. Consider the options: 1) Don't reenlist, and be in the service for another 18 months past ETS date due to stop-loss 2) reenlist, get some money (non-taxable if in a combat zone), and maybe get out in a couple of years anyway. Flip a coin and do the math.

It takes six years for a captain to become a major. A good number of officers are leaving asap despite large promotions being just days away upon return stateside and promises to retain their commisions.

If I was still active; I'd reenlist, take the bonus, and do like so many others and start counting the days.
posted by buzzman at 5:08 PM on July 19, 2005

Why doesn't the Bush anministration come out, take the lead, and say, right now, that it'll take 3Trillion dollars of today's money to 'solve' the Iraq crisis?
They could vote themselved the 3 trillion, and fix the problem, and pocket the rest...
It's because it'll be more, huh?
posted by Balisong at 7:34 PM on July 19, 2005

Interesting link bafflegab, and some other interesting bits (god/devil is in the details) - thanks! In respect for markovitch; I love Clemens, and it would be totally in character for him to do something like that *and* I think it's worthy to credit Mark Twain for popularizing a truism.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:09 PM on July 19, 2005

... Derived from Pentagon and census data, this chart shows the Iraqi war death rates for every 100,000 people ages 18 to 54 by the size of their county's population. The difference is visible not just in the size of a soldier's county of origin, but also in its location.

Counties disconnected from urban areas tend to have higher death rates, regardless of population size. Small rural counties have a death rate nearly twice that of counties that have the same population but happen to be part of metropolitan areas.

...Military studies consistently find that a poor economy is a boon to recruiting. The higher rate of deaths from rural counties likely reflects sparse opportunities for young people in those places.

The Rural War
posted by y2karl at 10:57 AM on July 20, 2005

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