Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Recruiting Looking Good for Marines

Even without offering big cash bonuses, promising opportunities for college or assuring a better life after service, the Marine Corps anticipates meeting its five-year force-growth goal two years early, the commander of Marine recruiting said via teleconference from his headquarters in Quantico, Va. The Marine recruiting message is dynamically different from that of other services, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Robert E. Milstead Jr. said as he discussed the current state and contemporary challenges in recruiting Marines. "Other services may recruit and offer themselves as a means of something else or something better, saying, 'We'll get you a college education,' 'We'll get you financial stability,' or 'You'll improve your lot in life,'" Milstead said. "But the Marine Corps offers itself as the destination. We don't talk college, we don't talk money, and we don't talk anything else [to recruits]. We only make one promise: that you'll be a United States Marine." The potential for deployments with the nation's current posture in the Middle East hasn't deterred recruiting and retention, and the likelihood of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan hasn't presented itself as a challenge, Milstead said. Regardless of which branch of service, recruits are fully aware of "what they're walking into" when they meet with recruiters, he added."Remember, there is no draft," he continued, "and all these kids join to serve their nation knowing that in the Marine Corps, and most likely the Army, they're going to move toward the sounds of canons." Milstead praised the fidelity and commitment of Marines who have served multiple tours and enlistments during the nation's time of need. The Marine Corps' success in building up its force is credited to retention as well as recruiting, he explained. "The young men and women today are hanging around, and they may have two or three deployments under their belt," the general said. "They enjoy what they're doing; they feel that the Marines is worth their efforts. And so they're re-enlisting too." Since 2007, the Marine Corps has been pushing recruiting and retention goals to grow its active-duty force to 202,000 Marines by 2011, a 27,000-Marine increase in just five years. But with fiscal 2008 coming to a close at the end of the month, the Marine Corps already has about 198,000 active-duty Marines, putting the goal well within reach. In fact, Milstead said, he anticipates the Marine Corps will reach the end state of its growth as early as next year without compromising its high standards for recruits. Milstead noted that 97 percent of Marine recruits this year were high school graduates, well above the Defense Department average. "We've been very pleased with our ability to meet our recruiting numbers within the Marine Corps," he added. "But bottom line, what it took to be a Marine, two, three, five and 10 years ago, is what it takes to be a Marine today."

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