The Army is adding more than two dozen new recruiters in eastern Missouri and Southern Illinois in an effort to help meet the region's quota for enlistments.
"We've been running a little low," said Command Sgt. Maj. Vincent Paten, the top noncommissioned officer in the St. Louis Recruiting Battalion. The battalion covers 62 counties across 62,600 square miles.
Earlier this month, the Army announced a nationwide expansion in the ranks of recruiters. More than 1,000 sergeants will join the recruiting force, which now numbers a bit more than 6,000.
Paten hopes to get 25 of those new recruiters by Oct. 1, the beginning of the federal fiscal year. He currently has 131.
"But realistically, we'll have them all by Dec. 15," he said.
Locally, the Cape Girardeau Recruiting Company, which covers recruiting stations in Cape Girardeau, Poplar Bluff, Sikeston, Farmington and Festus in Missouri, and Carbondale and Marion in Illinois, hopes to get five or six recruiters, said Sgt. 1st Class Jeffery Miller of the recruiting station at 1307 Broadway.
When those recruiters would arrive, and which recruiting stations they would go to, is not yet certain, Miller said.
The Cape Girardeau station is currently one recruiter short of a full staff of six. The station covers cities in about eight counties in Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois.
This year's regional goal is 1,800 recruits for the active-duty Army and 538 more for the Army Reserve. Nationally, the Army's mission this year comes to 77,000 active-duty recruits and 21,200 more for the Army Reserve.
"There's no question that we'll make it," said spokesman Doug Smith of the Army Recruiting Command at Fort Knox, Ky.
Paten said that though his battalion is running behind, it will come close to its goal for fiscal year 2004.
Come October, Paten's recruiters will face a higher mission for the new fiscal year. Those numbers have yet to be posted, but Paten said, "Our mission will probably run about 1,900 for the active-duty Army and 600 for the Army Reserve."
For the Cape Girardeau recruiting station this higher mission probably means bringing in 12 recruits per month. Currently, the station's mission is 10 recruits per month, although Miller said they recruit about eight people per month.
"It's below average," Miller said. "I've been here three years, and it's always been this way."
Miller said it is not difficult to find people wanting to enlist in the Army. The problem is finding people who are qualified to be enlisted.
"Finding quality people is a challenge," Miller said.
There will be more incentive. Paten will be able to wave bigger cash bonuses in front of those who choose in-demand specialties -- up to $15,000, or 2 1/2 times the current maximum.
He'll also be able to offer special bonuses to recruits who have at least 30 hours of college credits, plus up to $50,000 in post-service college money.
Staff writer Kathryn Alfisi contributed to this report.