- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 24, 2006

With local National Guard units struggling to reach enlistment goals, the service is offering guardsmen cash incentives to help shore up the ranks, officials said.

The money is being offered to guardsmen who recruit friends and family members.

“We’re not asking them to go into high schools and recruit,” said Lt. Col. Paul Trapp, an Army National Guard recruiter based in Arlington. “We’re just asking them to work in their spheres of influence.”

Col. Trapp spoke to about 500 D.C. guardsmen about the incentives at a pep rally Sunday afternoon at the D.C. Armory.

Guard members will receive $1,000 for each referral who signs up and an additional $1,000 for each one who goes to boot camp, said Staff Sgt. Lorenzo Parnell, a spokesman for the D.C. Guard.

“What we’re facing is the question: What can you do to motivate people?” Sgt. Parnell said. “The problem is the motivation level.”

In Virginia, where the Guard has a current enlistment goal of 7,700 troops, they are currently 700 below that mark.

Lt. Col. Chester Carter, a spokesman for the Virginia National Guard, said the service has been below its enlistment goal for several years and said the war in Iraq has been keeping potentialtroops away.

“There’s probably a lot of factors that impact the numbers,” said Col. Carter. “The mobilization … [is] probably the biggest thing.”

For similar reasons, the D.C. Army National Guard is 215 persons shy of the enlistment level of 1,400, which officials also attribute to low morale and the loss of soldiers to retirement.

Officials with the Maryland National Guard said they have exceeded their enlistment goal of 5,600 for the last six months. They said the reward program has helped them attain an enlistment level of 5,615 soldiers.

During Sunday’s rally, Brig. Gen. Barbaranette T. Bolden presented Pfc. Christian Belton with a $2,000 check for recruiting a friend last month. Pfc. Belton said he would put the award in a savings account for his twin 2-year-old sons, Christian Jr. and Malachi.

“Our country appreciates your service, and we couldn’t do it without you,” said Gen. Bolden, who returned late last month from Iraq with about 70 soldiers in the 260th Military Police Command. “It’s soldiers like you who make the difference.”

Since it began last year, more than 6,300 Army National Guard recruits have been brought into the service nationwide because of the incentives program.

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