Washington -- The solution to boosting recruiting within the military "is not about money and benefits," the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told Pentagon reporters today. It's "about message."
Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, who served three years as a recruiter in Buffalo, N.Y., earlier in his career, said America's young people need to understand that their contributions are needed and valued.
"If we let our young folks know how much we appreciate their service to their country, there are thousands and thousands of young men and women out there who want to serve this country," the general said. "They want to know from their parents, they want to know from the media, they want to know from their government leaders that we value their service and what they are doing to provide freedom in the world.
"If we get that message to them, there will be plenty of folks enlisting," Pace said.
Pace, who returned from a visit to Afghanistan July 13, said he was impressed that the troops there had clearly heard that message.
If asked if they'd rather be deployed or at home with their families, most would say they'd rather be home, he acknowledged.
"But if you said to them, 'Do you understand the value of your service over here?' they swell up with pride and they say yes they do," Pace said. "And they do not want to come home until the job is done. They understand.
"They know there's an election coming up (Sept. 18 in Afghanistan), and U.S. soldiers there are proud of their contribution, just as those in Iraq are proud of the fact that there will be a referendum (there) on Oct. 15 and ... an election in December," Pace said.