Players: Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck
Army Personnel Chief Aims to Keep Ranks Full
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 28, 2004; Page A21
Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief, is facing a challenge no American officer has had to contemplate for at least a century: keeping the all-volunteer Army fully manned as it undergoes sustained ground combat.
The United States has not had a draft since 1973. The last time the Army took many casualties without conscript troops was during the war in the Philippines, which lasted from 1899 to 1902, and in which 4,374 U.S. troops died -- five times the toll so far in Iraq.
"We're in uncharted waters, in the sense that we're recruiting and retaining an all-volunteer force in a time of war," Hagenbeck said in a recent interview in his office in the Pentagon.
Right now, Hagenbeck said, indicators on recruiting new soldiers and retaining current ones are good.
For example, 14,611 first-term soldiers have reenlisted this year -- about 98 percent of the Army's goal of having 14,918 of those younger troops re-up by this point.
The numbers for career soldiers are even better, he said. Surveys of intentions of soldiers, and of possible recruits, indicate that target and similar ones for other soldiers will continue to be met. Nor, he said, has the Army had to pull out the stops with bonuses and other incentives to meet personnel goals.
But, he added, "How that will play out over the coming months and years remains to be seen."
The soldiers, he said, are generally doing okay. "There's no question that there's stress on the United States Army -- it would be foolish not to say so." But, he continued, "I think the good news is that by and large, they feel like they're doing something useful, something bigger than themselves, something for the nation."
His biggest worry, said Hagenbeck, a career light infantry officer, is how mothers, teachers and coaches, who influence the youths' enlistment decisions, come to think about military service.
"That's the one I am holding my breath about every day," he said.
Hagenbeck was the commander of the 10th Mountain Division from 2001 to 2003, and during that tour served as deputy commander of U.S. operations in Afghanistan. Then he was chosen to be the Army's personnel chief.
"It's the hardest job I've ever had," he said. "The whole business of a volunteer force is, we've got to make sure we can man and maintain a volunteer Army in the difficult environment we have right now."
The reason he was selected for the job of personnel chief, Hagenbeck said, is that he came from a field command and stays in touch with other senior officers in the field. Done right, he said, "it's a very intuitive job. You can crunch numbers all day long, but commanders in the field know that there are a lot of nonquantifiable reasons that a soldier stays in, and that's why I'm here."
The major event making his work complex is the difficult U.S. occupation of Iraq. The Army had hoped to quickly draw down its force there, from a peak of about 160,000 a year ago to about 55,000 by last fall. Back then, the Army talked about Iraq as a "spike" in troop requirements rather than a "plateau."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company
Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, at a briefing while deputy commander of U.S. operations in Afghanistan, said his job as head of Army personnel is the hardest he has had.
(Mikhail Metzel -- AP)
Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck
Title: Deputy Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army for personnel.
Education: Bachelor's degree in science, West Point; master's of science in exercise physiology, Florida State University; master's in business administration, Long Island University; attended Army War College, 1993.
Age: 54.Born in Rabat, Morocco, the son of a career Navy sailor.
Career highlights: Batboy, St. Louis Cardinals spring training, 1963; assistant football coach, Florida State University; assistant division commander, 101st Airborne Division; deputy director for current operations, Joint Chiefs of Staff; commander, 10th Mountain Division; and deputy commander, U.S. operations, Afghanistan.
Family: Married; two children and four grandchildren.
Favorite book: Rick Atkinson's "An Army at Dawn: The War in Africa, 1942-1943."