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Monday, June 20, 2005
Mideast war drives isle
Reaching goalsThe Coast Guard is meeting and exceeding recruiting quotas locally and nationally, even as the Army is struggling to attract recruits with the war in Iraq ongoing. Here are local and national Coast Guard quota numbers compared with enlistment totals for February to April, the latest month for which information is available:
"I really like the idea of not going to war," said Schaffer in a telephone conversation from a Coast Guard cutter in San Diego. "I always knew that the military was always a good deal to get into financial-wise ... but with the Coast Guard, you know 99 percent you're not going overseas at all. It feels a little more safe to join."
Army and Marine officials have blamed disappointing recruitment numbers on the war in Iraq, saying young people are not jumping at the chance to go into battle and are also being deterred by parents.
Locally, Army recruiters are often falling well below monthly goals.
From January to March, 126 people in the islands joined the Army -- just half of the branch's quota for that period, according to Army Recruiting Office spokesman Peter DeLauzon. The Army Reserve fared even worse, signing on 65 people during the same three months, at the end of which they had hoped to attract 151.
Victorine, who has been a Coast Guard recruiter since 1974, said that many of the potential recruits he talks to have thought about the Army and Marines but want to first try their luck with the Coast Guard. "I always ask, 'Why are you checking out the Coast Guard?' And they tell me, 'I want the benefits.' What people see in the news, they hear all the negative, and it's turning them off to joining the Army."
Others also like the idea of working on homeland security issues.
After the 2001 attacks, the Coast Guard changed its primary mission from search and rescue operations to law enforcement. In 2003 it was moved under the Department of Homeland Security from the Transportation Department.
Last month, Victorine needed just 10 more recruits to meet his 50-person quota requirement for the year. His office has met or exceeded goals for 23 of the 43 months from Oct. 1, 2001, through April, the latest month for which information was available.
Nationally, goals have been met or exceeded in 25 months during the same period.
In August 2003, 12 recruits signed up in Honolulu -- three times the office's quota. In February, Victorine got eight recruits -- double the number he needed. He said he is now processing people for boot camp "from several months back," as classes fill up on a first-come, first-served basis and fill up fast.
Also, Victorine said the wealth of recruits has meant that the Coast Guard can be more selective with whom it admits, putting those with no previous skills on waiting lists and shuffling others with professional backgrounds into particular jobs.
At the Pearlridge Coast Guard recruiting office Friday, Nicholas Cone was getting information from a recruiter after being referred by a friend. The recent high school graduate, who is taking classes at Leeward Community College, said he did consider joining the Army but was persuaded not to by "the whole war and (the possibility of) going out to Iraq."
After watching an informational video about the Coast Guard, he is still interested and would like to go into ship navigation. He said he will likely make up his mind whether to join in a few weeks.