AUGUSTA (AP) – Maine’s Army National Guard is having a hard time filling its recruitment quotas, and recruiters say the war in Iraq is to blame.

“Recruits are joining with eyes wide open. We’re not keeping any secrets,” said Lt. Col. David Duehring. “There can be a real possibility that you will be deployed. If you’re thinking that you’re not, you’re taking a gamble.”

Maine’s Army National Guard recruitment is down 20 percent compared to 2003. Nationally, the Guard says it hit its recruiting goal last year, but many of those are shipping out and the prospect for future recruitment is not as promising.

Giving up one weekend a month and two weeks a year used to be enough to serve your country. Duehring said National Guard members used to expect one deployment in 20 years of service. Today, traveling overseas is the norm in the first couple of years.

“We have Iraq, Haiti, and there is a global war on terrorism,” Duehring said. “We are all over the place not just in conflict, but in peacekeeping operations. It was different even 10 years ago.”

Half of Maine’s 2,200 Army National Guard troops have been deployed overseas, the third-highest percentage in the nation.

As deployments to Iraq increase, local Army National Guard recruiting gotten harder.

“Family separation and facing a hostile environment are very real today and for the foreseeable future,” Duehring said. “Together, they play a major role when making the decision to join and remain in a reserve component unit. We’re living in different times.”

Despite the possibility of deployment, Duehring said, the National Guard still attracts those who are interested in college and medical benefits, and people whose patriotism drives them to serve.

“The reserves are being used more and more, and facing many mobilizations,” Duehring said. “In the end, our soldiers are honored and proud to serve their country, and they take their commitment very seriously.”

AP-ES-03-06-04 1232EST



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