WASHINGTON -- The increased demands of the war on terrorism aren't hurting recruiting and retention for America's combat forces, Army and Marine leaders said here today.
In the active Army, retention rates are still at or near 100 percent of the service's goals, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard A. Cody said in an interview with American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
Likewise, the Marines expect to meet 100 percent of their re-enlistment goals by the end of this fiscal year, Lt. Gen. Jan C. Huly, that service's deputy commandant for plans policies and operations, said during a separate interview.
The Army also has increased its accessions goal by 30,000 soldiers over the next three years, Cody said, adding that the service is on track to meet recruiting goals for this year.
Cody acknowledged the war on terrorism has stretched the Army's capabilities, and he said service officials are keeping a close eye on both recruiting and retention issues.
"We're going to keep watching it," he said. "We'll provide more benefits (and) bonuses as we can. But quite frankly, it's been the selfless service and the patriotism of great young men and women ... who have raised their right hands and said, 'Send me.'"
Both leaders attributed the services' success in recruiting and retention to the high quality of the all-volunteer force.
"I think what we're really experiencing is we're reaping the benefits of the all-volunteer force," Huly said. "The quality young women and men that we recruit, the training that they receive, ... and just what great young Americans they are."
Cody said soldiers' "warrior ethos" also helps keep the Army's ranks full. "I think it goes back to the leadership investment we've made with our noncommissioned officers," he said. "But it also goes back to an all-volunteer force of young soldiers who joined the Army, many right after 9/11, who fully understand that this country was attacked, fully understand the dangers of this war and the dangers of this world, and have had the courage and the patriotism to step forward and say, 'We'll fight for America, and we'll fight for our freedom.'"
Both leaders also noted the support of ordinary Americans is important for troops to feel like their work has meaning.
"They all need to know that Americans across this great nation absolutely are proud of what they've done," Cody said. "The fact that Time magazine took the American soldier and made it the Person of the Year should tell anyone in uniform how America feels about them."
Huly said Americans' support "makes an awful lot of difference" to troops who are deployed. He said whenever he and other Marine leaders visit troops, the one question they get asked the most is "Does everybody know what we're doing, and are they still supportive of our efforts?"
"And the answer is always a favorable and resounding 'Yes,'" Huly said. "And it makes you feel good to be able to say that and to know that the American people are behind you."