U.S. military re-enlistment exceeds goals
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. -- There were no signs of the shrapnel wounds from a roadside bomb in Iraq as Staff Sgt. William Pinkley raised his right hand and swore once more to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
Despite his wounds -- and despite the rising death toll of U.S. troops in Iraq -- he and other soldiers are signing up for another tour of duty, re-enlisting at rates that exceed the retention goals set by the Pentagon.
Pinkley re-upped for three more years, citing the camaraderie and the challenge of a new assignment.
"To come out and work with you guys every day, it's a good feeling," Pinkley, 26, told his 101st Airborne Division buddies during the ceremony earlier this month. His wife, Kimberly, watched with a smile, their toddler in her arms.
As of March 31 -- halfway through the Army's fiscal year -- 28,406 soldiers had re-enlisted, topping the six-month goal of 28,377. The Army's goal is to re-enlist 56,100 soldiers by the end of September.
"It's a very positive retention picture at this point," said Lt. Col. Franklin Childress, an Army public affairs officer. The Army had nearly a half-million active-duty soldiers.
However, Childress cautioned that factors such as an improved economy and the Pentagon's decision to keep about 20,000 troops in Iraq for longer than a year to help quell the violence could change the picture.
The Marines, which along with the Army have borne the brunt of combat in Iraq, said they have already fulfilled 90 percent of their retention goal for the fiscal year for getting Marines to re-up after their initial commitment. The Air Force and the Navy said they, too, are exceeding goals for getting airmen and sailors to re-enlist.
Some contend a poor job market and re-enlistment bonuses worth thousands of dollars are keeping soldiers in the Army. Col. Joseph Anderson, commander of the 101st's 2nd Brigade, said it is more about camaraderie, patriotism and duty.
"They've had a personally rewarding and professionally developing experience," Anderson said. "I think they've formed some bonds that are going to last a lifetime. It tends to make them want to stay."
The only Army division to not meet its goal in the six-month period was the 82nd Airborne Division, whose members have been sent to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq since the Sept. 11 attacks. The division wanted to re-enlist 1,221 soldiers, but got only 1,136.