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Thursday, March 27

Military recruits appear undeterred by current war

By Fredreka Schouten | GNS

WASHINGTON - For Jeremy Glenn, the future seems clear: Graduate in June from high school and then head to boot camp in San Diego at summer's end to begin a four-year tour of duty in the United States Marine Corps.

The world has changed since the 17-year-old signed up for military service last November. But Glenn, a senior at Wooster High in Reno, Nev., said the outbreak of war in Iraq and images of U.S. prisoners of war have not deterred him.

"I stand a lot taller because I know that I'll be doing a lot more in the next four years than a lot of my classmates will,'' he said.

Across the country, school counselors and military recruiters say the war does not appear to have dissuaded students from joining the military. And based on their experiences after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, neither do they expect a surge of enlistments because of the war.

"World events like September 11 and what's going on in Iraq always cause an increase in interest, but that doesn't always translate into people signing up,'' said Maj. David Griesmer, spokesman for the Marine Corps Recruiting Command in Quantico, Va.

During the buildup to the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Army recruiters sensed some hesitancy among young people about joining the military, said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Ky.

Interest seemed to surge once the war began, but by the end of the fiscal year 1991 the Army saw no dramatic change in the number of recruits. Smith said 78,241 joined that year, just shy of the Army's goal of 78,250.

"We've heard some talk of people who now want to serve their country,'' said Lt. Bill Davis, spokesman for Navy Recruiting Command in Millington, Tenn.

But Davis said patriotic fervor often attracts Americans older than 35, the Navy's age limit for new recruits.

"Everything is anecdotal until a little time has passed,'' he said.

Still, the military isn't going to let a recruiting opportunity pass it by. A day after the bombs began to fall in Iraq, the Army began airing a new television spot featuring some of the branch's mottoes, including, "No task too tough.''

Days later, the Marines started running a new documentary-style ad, using footage shot during the recent conflict in Afghanistan

"We feel there's no better time to talk about public service and serving your country,'' Griesmer said.

Recruiters say new recruits are thinking of the long term when they commit.

"The main reason they are joining the Air Force is for job skills and continuing education,'' said Jerry Thomas, spokesman for the Air Force Recruiting Service at Randolph Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas.

Marilyn Ortiz, a counselor at El Paso High School in Texas, agreed. Many students choose the military because ``they aren't sure what they want to do, and at the same time it's a chance to get paid, get skills and see the world.''

Deborah Granger, a career specialist at two high schools in Bellingham, Wash., said few students in her area have signed up for military service, but ``the students that are interested in it seem to have maintained their interest.''

In Nevada, Jeremy Glenn is ranked fourth in his high school class and would have a wide pick of colleges. He said was attracted to the Marines ``because of the intangibles, like the sense of commitment it offers.''

Too many kids "float through life without direction,'' said his father, Michael Glenn.

In the Marines, "they break these kids down from thinking about self and then build them up to think about the team,'' Michael Glenn said. ``The Marine Corps will give him an opportunity to be groomed as a leader.''

Although he's months away from officially becoming a Marine, Glenn and other young recruits already are getting doses of Marine culture from Sgt. Terry Horan, a former drill sergeant who now is a recruiter in Reno. He puts the boys through a workout at a nearby gym each morning before school. And they meet regularly for hikes and pep talks to prepare for the rigors of boot camp.

Military officials say recruits who are heading to basic training or who are just signing up are unlikely to participate fighting in Iraq because their training will take at least several months. Several of the new recruits from the Reno area who are beginning basic training this year are not likely to be assigned to units until May or June next year.

"We should have it in the bag by then,'' Horan said of the conflict in Iraq. "If not, we'll be in trouble.''

Glenn is unlikely to see any combat during his four years. He already has been accepted to play saxophone in the Marine Corps Band.

But Aaron Ashlock and Dustin Felt, two other 17-year-old recruits from northern Nevada, have signed up for the infantry.

Reports of fierce gunfights in the Iraqi desert and televised pictures of terrified prisoners of war, ``don't make me nervous,'' said Felt, a senior at Sparks High School. ``It makes me angry, but determined.''

Ashlock, whose grandfather was a Marine, said he wants to make the military his career. But other students at Reno High School often don't understand his choice.

During a recent debate in government class, a classmate questioned why America was waging war in Iraq and why Ashlock would don the uniform.

Ashlock said he turned to the student and said: "If I don't go, who will?''

On the Web:

Army recruiting

Air Force recruiting

Marine Corps recruiting

Navy recruiting