- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 8, 2011

The day feels so distant to Mark Olson, almost like another life.

Before the nervous trip to the recruiting office, before the year in Iraq, before the nightmares, he arrived at the Palouse Mall in Moscow, Idaho, at 7 a.m. to train as a Starbucks barista. Barely 18 years old, he also worked at Rosauers Supermarket and a pizzeria to save money for college.

In the mall’s parking lot, Mr. Olson noticed his Starbucks manager sitting in her car. The radio blared.

“Good morning,” he said.

“Shut up,” said the manager, usually a friendly woman, “the second tower just got hit.”

Mr. Olson didn’t know what she was talking about. The television at an Orange Julius inside the empty mall provided answers as the twin towers collapsed.

And what became a familiar thought entered Mr. Olson’s mind: We need to do our part.

“A lot of my life was shaped by that day in September,” he recalled. “Nine-11 sparked a fire that was already there. … But I’m sure there were other guys who thought, ‘Are you high?’ “

But the spike in patriotism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks didn’t lead to an increase in enlistments, according to the recruiting commands of the Army, Air Force, Marines and Navy.

“No actual enlistment impact,” the Army replied.

“No appreciable surge,” wrote the Marines.

“We had a goal set and we met our goal,” the Navy said. “We don’t ask what reasons they come in for.”

Each branch tracks accessions - recruits enlisted and shipped to boot camp - in a fiscal year from October through September. In the first fiscal year after the attacks, the Army, for instance, had 79,585 accessions against its active-force goal of 79,500. The same year, the Navy recorded 46,150 accessions with a target of 46,155. The recruiting goals are linked to each branch’s congressionally authorized end strength. They can’t exceed those goals.

In the two years before the attacks, there were more active Army accessions than in the two years following. The Navy actually needed 7,370 fewer recruits the year after the attacks.

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