Number of Blacks Joining Military Down
Monday, June 25, 2007; 12:18 AM
WASHINGTON -- The number of blacks joining the military has plunged by more than one-third since the Afghanistan and Iraq wars began. Other job prospects are soaring and relatives of potential recruits increasingly are discouraging them from joining the armed services.
According to data obtained by The Associated Press, the decline covers all four military services for active duty recruits. The drop is even more dramatic when National Guard and Reserve recruiting is included.
The findings reflect the growing unpopularity of the wars, particularly among family members and other adults who exert influence over high school and college students considering the military as a place to serve their country, further their education or build a career.
Walking past the Army recruiting station in downtown Washington, D.C., this past week, Sean Glover said he has done all he can to talk black relatives out of joining the military.
"I don't think it's a good time. I don't support the government's efforts here and abroad," said Glover, 36. "There's other ways you can pay for college. There's other ways you can get your life together. Joining the Army, the military, comes at a very high price."
The message comes as no surprise to the Pentagon. At the Defense Department, efforts are under way to increase the size of the Army and Marine Corps so the country can better wage what the military believes will be a long battle against terrorism.
"The global war on terror has taken its toll, no question," said Curt Gilroy, the Pentagon's director of accession policy, in an Associated Press interview.
Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway agreed that the bloodshed in Iraq _ where more than 3,540 U.S. troops have died _ is the biggest deterrent for prospective recruits.
"The daily death toll that comes out is, I think, causing people who are the influencers of young men and women in America to take a second look," he said. "So I think that's probably the single most dominant feature."
According to Pentagon data, there were nearly 51,500 new black recruits for active duty and reserves in 2001. That number fell to less than 32,000 in 2006, a 38 percent decline.
When only active duty troops are counted, the number of black recruits went from more than 31,000 in 2002 to about 23,600 in 2006, almost one-quarter fewer.
The decline is particularly stark for the Army. Blacks represented about 23 percent of the active Army's enlisted recruits in 2000, but 12.4 percent in 2006.