MACON, Ga. - While military units around the country struggle to meet recruiting goals, Georgia Department of Defense officials say they expect to meet their Army National Guard recruiting target this year.
Lt. Col. Jim Driscoll said the state is on track to fill the ranks of the Army Guard and then some.
"We plan to exceed our annual recruiting goal of 1,700 new enlistees," Lt. Col. Driscoll said Friday. "We've already enlisted over 1,000 so far. It's a good news story."
Meanwhile, the state's Air National Guard is struggling to meet its goals.
Among the nation's Army Guard units, Georgia ranks second only to Minnesota in recruiting productivity.
Nationwide, the Army National Guard achieved only 71 percent of its recruiting goal in May, according to figures released Friday. The active duty Army was only slightly better at 75 percent. The Army Reserve was at 82 percent.
Lt. Col. Driscoll says there are two reasons for Georgia's success.
"One is the appeal of the Guard," he said. "Admittedly, it's not the same Guard we had 15 years ago. But it is still hometown-based and there are a lot of advantages that appeal to people."
Another reason, he says, is the leadership and action taken several years ago.
"Our Georgia Army Guard leaders knew we would be facing some challenging years and they became a lot more aggressive in marketing and determining where the recruiting emphasis needed to be," Lt. Col. Driscoll said.
"They were up front with it, and that's really paying off."
But the state's Air National Guard is not seeing the same level of recruiting success.
Lt. Col. Ken Baldowski said there are some recruiting challenges for the Georgia Air Guard.
"According to the latest state figures, our end strength is about 90.4 percent of where we need to be," he said.
Nationwide, Air National Guard units made only 78 percent of their recruiting goal in May, although the active duty Air Force was at 101 percent. The Air Force Reserve also exceeded 100 percent.
Lt. Col. Baldowski said a number of factors affect recruiting efforts.
"We're facing a different environment now," he said. "We're at war, and we've seen a drop off in recruiting since the end of 2001. I'm speculating, but the war may be giving people second thoughts."
Several measures are being taken to address the shortfall, he said.
"Foremost are financial incentives," Lt. Col. Baldowski said. "We have a $15,000 bonus for non-prior-service recruits and about a $10,000 bonus for re-enlistment and retraining."
Also, recruiting offices and recruiter duty hours are being expanded.
"We've added two new recruiters and an office supervisor in Macon," he said. "In Savannah, we're looking at increasing the office hours from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days a week, and we're opening two additional storefront locations."