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Where recruiting runs strongest

Indiana is among the states - often in Midwest and South - that rank highest, a trend driven by economic opportunity

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The recruiting crisis that has gradually spread to all quarters of the United States Army has not yet made it past the front door of the Indianapolis office of Sgt. 1st Class David Lacks.

Like every recruiter, he had heard the stories of how the Army National Guard again missed its quota last month and is now 23 percent off its annual target, of Army recruiters who scramble to meet their mission of two new soldiers a month.

But he has no time for them. From the moment he enters the office, he is a flurry of activity and optimism, fielding calls, bustling among files, and talking - always talking. This is a man who tried to recruit nurses when he was recently taken to the hospital with an arm injury. No long ago, he won a prize for signing up a dozen new National Guard members in 90 days.

His success, he says, comes from the counsel that the most difficult times call for the simplest remedies: desire and hard work. Yet it also echoes beyond Indiana and indicates that, as the war in Iraq continues, certain areas of the country are responding more eagerly to the call of military service than others.

To be sure, none of the trends is overly hopeful for the Army, which has been hit harder than the Air Force, Navy, or Marines. The Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard all look likely to miss their annual recruitment goals across the country, but statistics offer clear regional distinctions.

Recruiters and experts agree the distinctions are not based on patriotism, but the changing economic character of different regions of the country. The blue- collar jobs and culture most clearly connected with military service are vanishing from the Northeast, leaving recruiters there with a tougher sell, while others in the South and Midwest pick up the slack.

"Over the past two generations, the people the armed forces disproportionately recruit from have moved out of the Northeast," says Loren Thompson, a defense analyst with the Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.

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