- The Washington Times - Friday, February 4, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Marine Corps fell slightly short of its recruiting goal in January, the first time that has happened in nearly a decade.

While the Marines remain on target to meet their full-year goal, officials said yesterday that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have made the parents of potential recruits more reluctant to approve.

“It’s a natural reaction in a time of war that a mother and father are going to have concerns, and so they are putting on the brakes,” said Maj. Dave Greismer, spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

The 17-year-olds in high school who are a prime target of Marine recruiters cannot sign up without parental approval. Maj. Greismer said that parents increasingly are making their sons and daughters wait until they are 18, but that has not stopped recruiters from putting in extra effort.

“What we’re doing is working with the parents more,” he said. “Whereas before it may have taken one visit and they would accept, now it may take a recruiter two, three, four” visits.

The Army is having its own challenges on the recruiting front, although Gen. Richard Cody, the vice chief of staff, told Congress on Wednesday that the Army would meet its full-year goal of signing up 80,000 recruits. The Army National Guard and Army Reserve, on the other hand, have fallen behind in recent months. The Guard missed its full-year goal in 2004 for the first time since 1994.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not the only factors working against recruiters. They also compete against private-sector opportunities and college aspirations of young Americans.

As casualties in Iraq continue to mount, parents have been become more resistant, analysts say.

“You have to work harder to get them to understand that this is a not a death warrant” for their son or daughter, said Bernard Trainor, a retired three-star Marine general who is writing a book about the Iraq war.

The Marines’ losses in Iraq have been especially heavy in recent months. In November, when they led an offensive against insurgent holdouts in the city of Fallujah, the Marines had 80 men killed in action — by far the most for any month since the war began in March 2003.

Over the final five months of 2004, the Marines, who contribute about one-quarter of the total U.S. forces in Iraq, suffered 49 percent of the combat deaths, according to Pentagon statistics. In January, 30 Marines were killed when their CH-53E helicopter crashed in western Iraq.

That is a major change from the Marines’ experience earlier in the war. For eight months, from July 2003 through February 2004, no Marines were killed in action in Iraq. Only one was killed in May and June 2003.

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