- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 5, 2005

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Sgt. Jonathan Jacobs joined the Army to get away from his part-time jobs as a telemarketer and a cargo handler.

He ended up in Iraq, but that didn’t stop the 24-year-old 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper from signing up in March for another hitch, even though that could mean another tour in the Middle East.

He has a newborn son and says the Army offers him a career as a communication specialist and his family a secure future.

At a time when the Iraq war has made it tougher for the Army to recruit new members of its all-volunteer force, there is no hesitation to re—enlist among soldiers such as Sgt. Jacobs and other members of the Army’s elite Airborne units.

“The Army gives you a chance to see life,” said Sgt. Jacobs, of Bay Shore, N.Y. “You’re secure. You have food. You have shelter. You have a paycheck.”

Even though the Army appears likely to miss its goal of recruiting 80,000 new soldiers this year, it is ahead of the pace needed to reach its goal of persuading more than 64,000 soldiers to re-enlist by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

Through the end of May, more than 45,000 soldiers had re-enlisted, said Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon. That is 70 percent of the Army’s full-year goal.

Staff Sgt. Daniel Metzdorf decided to re-enlist even though a roadside bomb blew off part of his right leg last year while he was in Iraq with the 82nd Airborne.

“It’s my life,” said Sgt. Metzdorf, 28, of Altamonte Springs, Fla., who uses an artificial leg and must requalify as a paratrooper to remain with the division. “It’s where I need to be.”

Sgt. Metzdorf was in the crowd last week when President Bush spoke at Fort Bragg.

“I thank those of you who have re-enlisted in an hour when your country needs you,” the president told the audience of 700 soldiers and airmen.

Many of the military personnel said they were glad Mr. Bush made that point.

To be sure, there are soldiers who choose not to re-enlist. Some even try to get out of their original service commitments, said Chuck Fager, director of Quaker House in nearby Fayetteville, whose organization counsels unhappy members of the military.

Before the Iraq war started in March 2003, Quaker House’s record for calls in a year was 3,128 in 2001. It took nearly 6,000 calls last year.

“People not wanting to go to Iraq was a very common concern,” Mr. Fager said.

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