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Military’s recruitment goals a point, click away

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WASHINGTON — Thanks partly to its snappy new Internet sites, the Pentagon is reaching more potential recruits — and expects to meet its enlistment goals this year.

For the first time since 1997, all four services are expected to meet their enlistment goals, officials said Monday, crediting new recruiting methods and a host of job incentives.

Incentives offered in the last couple of years — to draw new recruits or keep those in the service from leaving — include better pay, more enlistment bonuses, shorter service time and computers in the barracks for those who want to get an online education while they serve in the military.

The services also have added recruiters and are using the Internet more aggressively.

"The majority of our leads are coming off of the Web page," said Air Force recruiting spokesman Master Sgt. Tom Clements. "It's our most productive method of getting leads" for recruiters to pursue.

Army officials say that since they redesigned their Web site, they've corresponded with more than 30,000 chat-room users, generating more than 7,000 follow-up e-mails.

Officials have said the slump in recruiting in recent years is due partly to higher-paying civilian jobs in the strong U.S. economy, a higher rate of people going to college and the fact that fewer young people nowadays know anyone in uniform or think of the military as a possible career.

The Marines regularly meet their sign-up goals, the Army, Air Force and Navy have not always been as successful.

The Navy made its goal last year, but in 1998 fell 7,000 short of the 55,000 recruits it was looking for. The Army failed to get enough people in the last two years and the Air Force last year missed its goal for the first time in 20 years as pilots turned their backs on the military for jobs with commercial airlines.

This year, however, the Air Force signed up the 34,000 recruits it was looking for by July 18, with two months left in the fiscal year.

"We're happy but not celebrating," said Air Force recruiting spokesman Master Sgt. Tom Clements, predicting the Pentagon will continue to face an uphill battle in coming years.

The Air Force believes its improved recruiting is due in to increased and more strategically placed television advertising, an increase in the number of recruiters, and the "attractive, revamped Web page," Clements said.

The Air Force also has been offering as incentives shorter enlistment periods for some jobs and more bonuses.

The Army says it expects to sign up 12,000 more people than last year. In 1999, it recruited about 68,000, well short of the 74,000 goal. So far this year it has signed 76,000 and expects to meet the goal of 80,000 before the year ending Sept. 31, said Army director of recruiting Col. Kevin T. Kelley.

The Army focused on recruitment "from top leadership down," he said.

New Army incentives included a program in which several corporations have pledged to give preferential hiring treatment to those who've completed their service. Another allows the enlistee to attend two years of college before joining the Army, giving a monthly stipend during those studies.

Kelley said officials are "very optimistic and positive" about the results they've gotten so far. "What we cannot do is ... relax," he said. "We have to keep on going because it's still a very competitive market place."

On the Net: Army: www.goarmy.com

Air Force: www.airforce.com