The U.S. Army, which missed its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal, said on
Wednesday it has raised the maximum enlistment age for new soldiers by five
years to 39, greatly expanding its pool of potential recruits.
Army officials said the move did not reflect desperation to reverse recruiting
shortfalls, noting the Army had achieved seven straight monthly recruiting goals
despite coming up 7,000 short of last year's target of 80,000 recruits. The
Army has blamed recruiting shortfalls in part on reluctance by some potential
recruits to serve in the Iraq war.
Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, an Army spokesman, said older recruits must meet the
same physical standards as the younger ones and attend the same basic training.
The new age ceiling applies to recruits without prior military service.
"Experience has shown that older recruits who can meet the physical demands
of military service generally make excellent soldiers based on their maturity,
motivation, loyalty and patriotism," Army Recruiting Command said in a
"Raising the maximum age for active Army non-prior service enlistment
expands the recruiting pool, provides motivated individuals an opportunity to
serve, and strengthens the readiness of Army units," it said.
The Army, offering new financial incentives to recruits, also doubled the maximum
combination of cash enlistment bonuses, up to $40,000 for the regular Army and
up to $20,000 for the Army Reserve.
The part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard increased their maximum
enlistment ages by the same amount in March 2005 in an action not requiring
congressional approval. For the regular Army, Congress authorized an increase
in the maximum enlistment age up to age 42, but the Army opted to allow enlistment
by those under age 40.
The announcement came hours after the civilian head of the Army downplayed
"In the ongoing discussion and debate about Iraq, some have said the Army
is severely stretched. A few have even described it as broken. I believe these
comments are incorrect," Army Secretary Francis Harvey told a Pentagon
A leading Democratic critic of the Iraq war, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania,
has called the Army "broken" and "worn out" by ongoing big
overseas deployments and recruiting shortfalls, a view echoed by other critics.
"Recruiting, I don't think is a measure of the strain on the Army,"
said Harvey, who touted strong reenlistment among current soldiers and positive
indicators on recruiting in future months.
Harvey also commented on the Army's decision last week to send 230,000 sets
of side armor plates to augment body armor used by soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan
The move followed the disclosure of an internal military report showing that
better body armor might have prevented or limited about 80 percent of fatal
torso wounds suffered by Marines killed in Iraq.
Harvey said in three years of casualty reports, the Army had found one fatal
gunshot wound to the side.
Asked why the Army would field new armor to address such a small threat, Harvey
said one death was too many, and that nonfatal wounds to the side might also
be prevented. Harvey also said "all the publicity" about the study
may have informed an "adaptive enemy" about vulnerabilities of U.S.
The new armor weighs about 5 pounds (2.3 kg), which adds to the roughly 70
pounds (32 kg) or more of armor and equipment some troops carry in Iraq. Some
soldiers have said the extra weight could make them slower targets for insurgents.