Recession helps bolster ranks of US armed forces

As the number of jobs continues to shrink, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.
The last fiscal year was a banner year for the military, with all active-duty and reserve forces meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals – the first time since 2004, Pentagon officials said.

And the trend seems to be growing. The Army exceeded its targets each month for October, November and December, bringing in 21,443 new soldiers on active duty and in the reserves.

Recruiters also report that more people are asking about joining the military, a trend that could further bolster the ranks.

Of the four armed services, the Army has faced the toughest recruiting challenge in recent years because of the casualty rates in Iraq and long deployments overseas. Recruitment is also strong for the Army National Guard, according to Pentagon figures.

"When the economy slackens and unemployment rises and jobs become more scarce in civilian society, recruiting is less challenging," said Curtis Gilroy, director of accession policy for the Department of Defense.

Still, the economy alone does not account for the military's success in attracting more recruits. The recent decline in violence in Iraq has "also had a positive effect," Gilroy said.

Another lure is the new GI Bill, which will significantly expand education benefits.....