Statistics released by the Army and National Guard last week point to several trends across the 50 states:
Across all three sectors of the Army - the Army, Reserve, and Guard - states in the Midwest and Great Plains have had the smallest drop-off in recruiting. These states are currently meeting 86 percent of their National Guard recruiting goals - tops for any region of the country. For their part, the Army and Reserve set out a national goal, which is 80,000 troops for the Army this year. The last time the Army set an 80,000-troop goal was 2000, and the Midwest states are on a pace to hit 84 percent of their total from that year.
Far more new soldiers come from the South, however. The South still shoulders a disproportionate recruiting burden compared with the rest of the country; its recruits make up nearly 40 percent of the Army soldiers who have enlisted since the beginning of the fiscal year in October.
For the Army, at least, the Iraq war appears to have had little effect on recruiting in red states versus blue states. Recruiting is down by virtually the same amount in both areas - at 73 percent of 2000 levels in red states and 72 percent in blue states. Red states, however, have produced 63 percent of the recruits enrolled since October, though they make up barely more than half the total US population.
All sectors of the Army place the lowest recruiting burden on the Northeast, where they expect the fewest number of recruits compared with the population. The Northeast remains the poorest-performing quarter of the nation. While the South is at 82 percent of its year-to-date National Guard mission, for example, the Northeast is at 70 percent.
It presents a dilemma for the military. "Do you look to overproduce in an area that is capable of doing it? How much do you back off from areas that have underproduced in the past?" says Doug Smith of Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
As well, in a political atmosphere that has equated patriotism with support for the war in Iraq, regional recruiting is a topic fraught with dangers, and recruiters approach it carefully.