WASHINGTON, D.C. (American Forces Press Service) -- Army
Secretary Pete Geren is crediting a new National Guard program that
brings new recruits into the active Army with a commitment to finish
up their tours in the Guard or Reserve as an example of innovative
initiatives that are helping maintain the force.
More than 500 recruits enlisted in the "Active First"
program since its kickoff Oct. 1. Army Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn,
director of the Army Guard, said he has no doubt the program will live
up to Geren's 1,600-recruit goal for fiscal 2008.
"Sixteen hundred is not going to be hard, not at
all," Vaughn said.
The program offers big bonus incentives: $40,000 for troops who
sign up for four years of active duty, $30,000 for 36 months of active
duty, and $20,000 for 30 months of active duty. Active First recruits
who return to the National Guard after their active-duty commitments
receive another $20,000, officials said.
Geren called the program a partnership that "shows our
Army is truly one Army" and is helping the Army keep its ranks
filled with quality recruits. That's particularly important, he said,
as the Army increases its active-force end strength by .2 percent by
the end of 2010.
"We're on track to meet that goal (to increase Army
active-force end strength by .2 percent by 2010), and if our
trends continue, we may well exceed it."
Secretary of the Army
"We're on track to meet that goal, and if our trends
continue, we may well exceed it. Certainly we are on track to meet
it," he said. "Active First deserves growing credit for our
ability to meet that goal.
"This partnership is bearing great fruit for the total
Army," he added.
The Active First program has three phases. Recruits first join
their hometown National Guard unit, which prepares them for the second
phase: basic training and an active Army tour.
After finishing their active-duty commitments, the Soldiers
return to the National Guard to resume their eight-year military
Vaughn acknowledged that some Active First recruits ultimately
may decide to stay on active duty rather than returning to the Guard.
"Do we care if they stay on active duty? No. That's a great thing
for the nation," he said.
Those Active First troops who finish out their commitments in
the Guard will be welcomed additions to their Guard units because they
can hit the ground running without immediately having to be sent off
for training, Vaughn said.
"They come back from a professional-development tour in
the active duty and they become valued and treasured members of that
organization," he said. "So when we look at this thing and
say, 'Is this a win?' it is a big win."
Officials say the program's strength is that it draws on the
National Guard's close ties in the communities to draw troops into the
force. "The Guard has strong contacts in the community all over
America, and it is these contacts and the trust that the communities
of America have in Guardsmen that enabled this program to get off the
ground with such great strength," Geren said.
Troops who enlist through the program get the benefit of being
mentored in their hometowns to ensure they're prepared for basic
training, Vaughn said. They go to the firing ranges with their units
and get exposed to a variety of military training activities. "We
try to get every experience to them before they get to training,"
Vaughn said. "We make sure they start up this path the right way,
and they make something for all of us to be proud of," he said.
About 60 percent of recruits into the Active First program were
referred through another Soldier, officials said. Pfc. Matt Millen,
who joined the program through the Kansas National Guard, said a
friend referred him. One Active First recruit, 19-year-old Pvt. Damien
L. Jones, said he's already referred three other recruits through the