The U.S. Army has fallen short on its recruiting goal for February, the first time it's missed the mark in five years.
Recruiters in Michigan say a moderate political climate, and an unemployment rate well above the rest of the country actually makes things easier to recruit here. Still, they're struggling against the obvious: recruiting soldiers not just to join up, but to perhaps go to war.
"Am I gonna be deployed? Am I gonna go to Iraq or Afghanistan?, people ask, and the answer is 'I don't know,' says Sgt. First Class Jeffrey Marinuzzi.
He runs the Armed Forces recruitment office in Lansing. They've recruited about 40 enlistees so far this year. That puts them halfway to their mission goal, halfway through the year.
"Based on jobs here, and unemployement, we're not seeing the downfalls," he says.
Consider these numbers.
U.S. Armed Forces: 6% off target goal
U.S. Army Reserves: 10% off target
In Michigan, year-to-date:
Feb. 2005: 890 Army recruits
Feb. 2004: 890 Army recruits
Feb. 2003: 921 Army recruits
Feb. 2005: 150 reserve recruits
Feb. 2004: 211 Reserve recruits
Feb. 2003: N/A
Nationallly, Army recruiters are 6 percent behind their target numbers for the army, 10% for the reserves. In Michigan however, recruiters are on pace with last year's totals to this point, down just 3 percent from 2003.
Nonetheless, among reserve recruits, Michigan is falling behind.
Recruits are down 29% from this date last year.
"We are feeling the pinch...It's the first time we've recruited during a war," Army Public Affairs officer Bruce Huffman explains. He says they've plussed the army recruitment force, and increased incentives like a $20,000 signing bonus, and $70,000 for college to compensate.
The incentives (college money in particular) played a factor for Scott Wells--set to join up officially after graduating from Holt in June. For Wells though, patriotism is first on the list.
"Service to country, definitely," Wells says. It's an "incentive" of sorts that's played strongly here in Michigan, despite the role those patriots will likely play in the army they're proud to join. "I'm not scared to do what I'm told to do," Wells says.