The Times has long played up and exaggerated the armed service's struggles to meet their recruitment goals. Now that services are meeting and exceeding their targets for the first time since 2004, the Times found the dark cloud, focusing on the bad economy for driving up recruitment in Monday's front-page story by Lizette Alvarez, "More Americans Joining Military As Jobs Dwindle - Recruiters Meet Goals - Drop in Iraq Violence and New G.I. Bill Are Seen as Factors."
Alvarez (who caused controversy with her fact-free January 2008 smear of solders as killers) used a form of the verb "lure" three times, a word choice that conjures up images of desperate young men being led into a trap. Alvarez actually led her story, not with the good news for the military, but the bad news about the unemployment rate.
As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.
The last fiscal year was a banner one for the military, with all active-duty and reserve forces meeting or exceeding their recruitment goals for the first time since 2004, the year that violence in Iraq intensified drastically, Pentagon officials said.
And the trend seems to be accelerating. The Army exceeded its targets each month for October, November and December - the first quarter of the new fiscal year - bringing in 21,443 new soldiers on active duty and in the reserves. December figures were released last week.
Recruiters also report that more people are inquiring about joining the military, a trend that could further bolster the ranks. Of the four armed services, the Army has faced the toughest recruiting challenge in recent years because of high casualty rates in Iraq and long deployments overseas. Recruitment is also strong for the Army National Guard, according to Pentagon figures. The Guard tends to draw older people.
Another lure is the new G. I. Bill, which will significantly expand education benefits. Beginning this August, service members who spend at least three years on active duty can attend any public college at government expense or apply the payment toward tuition at a private university. No data exist yet, but there has traditionally been a strong link between increased education benefits and new enlistments.
The Army and Marine Corps have also added more recruiters to offices around the country in the past few years, increased bonuses and capitalized on an expensive marketing campaign.
The Army has managed to meet its goals each year since 2006, but not without difficulty.
As casualties in Iraq mounted, the Army began luring new soldiers by increasing signing bonuses for recruits and accepting a greater number of people who had medical and criminal histories, who scored low on entrance exams and who failed to graduate from high school.