War Recruiters Report Lackluster Response To Gulf War

Veterans, Not Teen-age Newcomers, Look To Enlist

January 27, 1991|By Rona Hirsch | Rona Hirsch,Staff writer

War in the Persian Gulf hasn't generated the wave of enlistments that some of the local recruiting offices expected -- but it hasn'thurt business all that much, either.

What has surprised recruiters is the dramatic surge of re-enlistment requests from veteran servicemen.

"Just last week, someone in his 50s called, a retired sergeant," said Sgt. Jim Fitzhugh of the Marine Recruiting Office in Columbia, which oversees recruiting in Howard, Carroll, Frederick and Western Baltimore counties.

Fitzhugh said the Marines are currently accepting re-enlistments and estimated that 15 to 20 phone calls have been received daily from former soldiers.

FOR THE RECORD - A photograph published Jan. 12 incorrectly identified a military recruiter. The recruiter pictured was Army Capt. Michael A. Toumey.
The Howard County Sun regrets the error.

"Their specialties were combat related," he said. "But they never experienced combat before andnow want to be part of it."

Fitzhugh explained that the age limitof the re-enlistees can be waived, up to 35 years old. The number ofyears served is deducted from the veteran's current age. After the computation, anyone over the age of 27 must pass the physical.

"I've been here three years and have never seen anyone over 27 accepted,"he said. "It's just not favorable."

Sgt. Donald Jackson of the Air Force Recruiting Office in Catonsville, which recruits in Howard and Baltimore counties, said he is receiving approximately four calls aday from former servicemen who served at least 10 years.

The Air Force is not taking the veterans because of financial reasons. But Jackson said there also is no established program for accepting re-enlistments this year.

"A lot of them (former soldiers) are disappointed," Jackson said. "Basically, they're patriotic."

The Navy is allowing only selected veterans such as corpsmen, medical and intelligence personnel to return. Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Forkner said his Columbia office "turned five to six people away this week alone."

Capt. Michael A. Toumey, commander of the Columbia Recruiting Company for the Army and Army Reserves, said that the window for accepting "prior service" in the Army has just closed.

Army servicemen who have re-enlisted in the last few months have had to meet the same requirements they did the first time they joined. Service records are also checked.

Another trend is the sudden refusal by parents to give permission to their 17-year-old children who are interested in enlisting but are required to obtain parental consent first.

"I had three parents in the last week who wouldn't sign," said Forkner. "If not for the war, all three, or at least two, would've signed."

Forkner explained to the parents that it could be 1992 before the studentenlistees would see active duty since none of the branches accepts recruits before they finish high school. "The parents just said, 'No, my son is not going to war.' "

Training of Army recruits may take anywhere from eight weeks to one year. "People think I have a bus outside and in three days they end up in Riyadh," said Toumey. "Less than 20 percent (of those) I've seen enlisted have been sent to the gulf."

Although all the branches have quotas to meet, most have found that recruitment is on an even keel.

"It's business as usual," said Toumey, an artillery officer who is rejoining his combat unit in the gulf in May.

Neither does Toumey plan to step up recruiting efforts. "There's no reason to increase," he said. "We're operating aboveour minimum requirements and have been since Aug. 2."

His Columbia headquarters is part of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion, one of the largest recruiting centers in the nation, which encompasses sevencompanies within Maryland, Delaware, North Virginia, Washington, D.C., and part of West Virginia.

Last year, Toumey's office recruited80 people from Howard County. "We do well here," he said. "At the close of business for the fiscal year of September 1990, we took in about 50 percent of the market share. If two people join in Howard, chances are one will join the Army."

Forkner reported a slowdown. His office, which handles five county high schools and most of the Columbia area, has a quota of two enlistees per month. "I knew it would be slower because of the war," Forkner said. "One student told me he wasafraid of the chemical warfare."

Jackson, who has a quota of about one to two recruits a month for Howard and Baltimore counties, saidhe's not surprised at the lack of enlistment fervor. "The war's justbeginning. It's normal for this time frame. There will be more as the war continues."

Fitzhugh is disappointed with the lackluster numbers. "I expected more of an influx," he said. "But it just hasn't happened."

In fact, he said, people who showed interest in signing up before war broke out have decided against joining. "They were only looking at the education benefits."

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