- The Washington Times - Monday, August 25, 2003

FORT MONROE, Va. (AP) — Despite continuing losses in Iraq, the Army still is winning the hearts and minds of more then 70,000 recruits a year.

Not only are young Americans signing up, the quality of enlistees has never been higher, said Lt. Gen. Dennis Cavin, who leads the Army’s recruiting efforts as commander of the U.S. Army Accessions Command.

Gen. Cavin said 94.51 percent of the Army’s enlisted recruits are high school graduates; 25 percent have some college.

“The quality of this Army right now is unheard-of,” Gen. Cavin told the Daily Press of Newport News. He pointed out that 3,737 recruits have at least a bachelor’s degree; nine have doctorates.

Recruiting, however, never ends, and Gen. Cavin is paid to spot issues before they become problems.

“One of my big concerns is our obligation to reconnect with America,” Gen. Cavin said. “We used to be almost a million strong. That is a remarkable change of people who are not getting the experience of serving their country and going back and becoming schoolteachers and city officials and mayors.”

For most of Gen. Cavin’s 33 years in uniform, active-duty Army strength hovered around a million. As late as 1989 the number stood at 800,000. Today there are fewer than 500,000, nearly a third on duty in Iraq.

“The military has a legitimate concern of being cut off from the civilian population as it becomes smaller and more professional,” said Michele Flournoy, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“They want to stay linked to the U.S. population, but the gap is growing.”

Gen. Cavin tells a story that illustrates his concern. “I’m talking to a lady the other day. And she said, ‘I just think the soldiers are doing such a wonderful job. But there’s something bothering me. I don’t understand why soldiers don’t pay taxes.’”

Gen. Cavin said he quickly pointed out that all soldiers pay federal income tax. “That’s the knowledge gap about what people know about their military, their Army. And I’ve got to be able to bridge that,” he said.

The schism is widening, Gen. Cavin said, as the World War II generation dies off at the rate of 1,200 veterans per day. “When you start losing that generation and you see that we’ve gone down to the smallest Army since before World War II, there’s that” knowledge gap that exists about the military.

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