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Last Updated: Friday, 13 May, 2005, 14:54 GMT 15:54 UK
US woos soldiers with early exit
Uncle Sam recruiting poster made famous during two world wars
New recruiting posters and adverts may be appearing soon
Faced with a drastic shortage of recruits, the US Army has widened a scheme to offer would-be soldiers the option to sign up for just 15 months.

The minimum period a recruit can usually enlist for is four years.

But in an attempt to help recruiters meet their quotas, the army has announced the 15-month active service programme will be launched nationwide.

The recruiters have been struggling to meet targets as the Iraq war continues with ever-rising US casualties.

Targets missed

Chief of army recruiting Maj Gen Michael Rochelle admitted the military was encountering the "toughest recruiting climate we've ever faced in the all-volunteer army".

The army managed only 68% of its target in March and 73% in February, and provisional figures for April also showed a shortfall, a Pentagon spokesman said.

The last time a monthly quota was missed was in May 2000.

Under the 15-month plan, which was previously run as a pilot scheme in a few recruiting stations, enlistees will continue to be able to sign up for an eight-year commitment.

But after training, they will be able to serve for as little as 15 months on active duty followed by two years in the National Guard or Army Reserve.

They can serve the remainder of their eight-year term in the active or inactive reserves or in programmes such as Americorps or the Peace Corps.

Jim Martin, a retired army officer who teaches military culture at Bryn Mawr College, told USA Today parents and teachers "see the army as a real risk, a real danger" because of the war in Iraq.

The war was a bigger factor than the length of service in finding recruits, he said.

David Segal, a military personnel expert at the University of Maryland, told the newspaper that 15 months was often not enough time to learn complex tasks in a high-tech army.

However, recruiters themselves are reportedly being boosted in numbers at the Pentagon and new advertising and other publicity efforts are also planned.

Altogether, the army hopes to win 80,000 recruits over the US fiscal year, lasting from 1 October 2004 to 30 September 2005.

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