Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Army and Marine Corps to Increase in Size

The Department of Defense is asking Congress to increase the authorized end strength of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. The Military wants to add 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines to the force by 2012. According to Army Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, and Marine Gen. James T. Conway, commandant of the Marine Corps, who advocated the increase to Congress during testimony on February 15, the end strength increases will reduce the strain of forces and position them for the long war against terrorism by increasing time at home for units between deployments. The additional time at home will also allow the services to prepare their forces for missions in areas besides Iraq and Afghanistan. “I think that the Army is too small for the century that we're in,” Schoomaker said. “I believe the plan we have is the proper plan and proper slope to do it. And so my advice would be that we complete the plan and we sustain this force. It's my opinion the nation can afford it, and it's necessary in this century.”Advocating for the increase in the Marine Corps, Conway said, “I believe we're a nation at war. I think that Afghanistan and Iraq represent the first battles of this long war. And I think, like in any war, you don't know what's on the horizon; you don't what is going to follow. So if asked for my military advice on whether or not we should look at off-ramping or stopping something short of 202,000 Marines at this point, I would recommend we not do that until such time as we think that this war against Islamic extremists is over.” In order to meet the new strength ceilings, the Army is planning to increase their recruiting goals by 7,000 solders per year and the Marines plan to grow at a rate of 5,000 per year. According to Conway, the Marines are planning to add between 300 and 400 recruiters. Another part of the effort to grow the Marine Corps is to contact noncommissioned officers who have separated from the service and offer them the option of coming back in. Conway is sending a letter to every Marine who has gotten out in the last four years. “It’ll say that, ‘You may have already served your nation, but the job’s not done,’” he said. Everything is negotiable: four-year enlistments, two-year enlistments, airborne school, other military schools, and so on, Conway said. He added that NCOs should be able to come back on active duty with their former ranks. “We don’t have a lot of feedback yet,” Conway said. “It’s still in the early part of the process.” In a media roundtable after the congressional testimony, Conway emphasized that the Marines will not be lowing standards in order to meet the new numbers. “We do not want to sacrifice the quality of recruits simply to make the numbers,” he said. According to the general, Marine recruiting standards are higher than that set by the Department of Defense. The DOD standard states that 90 percent of all recruits must be high school graduates. The Marine standard is 95 percent, and the service is recruiting 96 percent. “We think the Marine Corps -- as the most prestigious service of all, with our mission, with the quality of the folks we are bringing in now -- that we need to hold to those standards,” he told reporters. “And we need to have every Marine to understand that the Marine on their flank is the same quality of individual that we always have.” DOD officials estimate that only about one-third of 18- to 24-year-olds qualify to join the military. “We’re going to hold to our standards, and we’re going to have to be driven off those standards,” Conway said.

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