Indiana Daily Student

Military enlistment increases in recent years

By listening to Lt. Col. Walter Pollard of the IU Military Science Department, one is apt to find a statement echoed by many armed forces personnel and statistics.\n"There had been a decline in the number of recruits in the past five years, but then we've been on the upswing," Pollard said.\nPollard remains a voice speculating on how interest in the military has decreased since the Reagan administration. He attributes the primary cause to a dearth in military service starting in the post-Vietnam years and continuing until only recently.\n"We're in this period of (asking ourselves), 'Why do we even need a military?'" Pollard said. "With the economy being as robust as it is and a decline in patriotism or an understanding of what the military does, you have a generation of people who didn't have role models where 20 years ago somehow they had some direct connection to the military."\nIndeed, as the veterans of World War II are gradually swept away by old age and death, the worldview has changed to accommodate the principles of the up-and-coming members of what the media commonly refer to as "Generation X".\n"Many young people grew up in a land of prosperity, where from the Reagan era forward, more and more folks were (young)," Pollard said.\nBeing raised in a land of prosperity might also hinder the chances of military recruitment, said Willard E. Witte, associate professor of macroeconomics and international economics.\n"Economic theory would certainly imply that when the civilian economy is good ' with plentiful jobs and rising pay levels ' military recruitment would suffer," Witte said.\nAlthough military recruitment did suffer during the early 1990s, Witte suggested it had less to do with the economy than with a decline in military demand. \n"That was during the immediate post cold war period when the economy was downsizing," Witte said, referring to numbers published by the Office of the Secretary of Defense chronicling the drop in the amount of Class E-1 recruits from 97,600 in 1990 to 63,400 in 1994. \nBut as the decade progressed and the economy rebounded, this figure rose to 74,100 by 1997, proving that theory and actuality are not always the same thing.\nThe economy is not the only possibility that affects the number of people who enlist in the military. Patrick D. Boy, a senior and former Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) member, attributes this to the educational and career benefits the Army has to offer.\n"The Army does have a lot of money, so if they're going to spend money on you, you will have a guaranteed job," Boy said.\nSgt. First Class Jon Smith of the U.S. Army Reserves in Bloomington emphasizes this point as a distinctive attribute that the other military services do not match.\n"We are the only branch of service that guarantees every single job initially in writing before a person enlists, and we're the only branch of service that will pay off all your loans," Smith said. "This year, we've probably paid off close to a half-million dollars in student loans at IU."\nThe results, according to Smith, have been formidable.\n"Last year, 65 people joined the Army out of this recruiting station," Smith said. "That's about a 70 percent increase over the previous year."\nSgt. Ryan Powell of the U.S. Marine Corps stresses a very different brand of benefits when it comes to his branch of service.\n"Tangible benefits are pretty standard across the board," Powell said. "When it comes to intangible benefits, such as the leadership skills that young people develop, these are all things you have to learn from experience."\nPowell said the reaction a Marine recruit has as he steps into an employer's office for the first time makes all the difference.\n"Many facets of the civilian department don't focus on personality characteristics for being a success," Powell said. "The pride that comes from wearing a uniform can carry you throughout your life."\nBut as the recruitment statistics continue to fluctuate and trends continue to be speculated upon, the hearts of many patriotic students continue to beat unwaveringly toward the cause of defending a nation. \nOr, as Sgt. Powell said, "The economy really doesn't matter that much, because the same people looking for the Marine Corps now are the same people who were looking for the Marine Corps when the economy was in a slump"

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