For years now, in the lingering shadow of the war in Iraq, the Armed Services – including the National Guard – have been plagued by dropping recruitment numbers. The Army has taken its aggressive recruitment machine to the professional racetrack, recruiting Joe Nemechek to market around each turn.

If the Army, with NASCAR in its camp, is having trouble, it’s no wonder the National Guard has turned to its current roster with cash in hand to help solicit new recruits.

Last year, Maine Army National Guard joined a Pentagon-funded program to pay current recruits $2,000 for every one they recruit into the Guard. The idea is that current recruits know what is expected of them and they know what life in the Guard is like, so are well equipped to match volunteers with skills necessary to do the job.

The program appears to be working, with Maine’s recruitment numbers going up. With friends making the pitch, perhaps we are also building stronger units.

Manning the ranks of the Armed Services is a full-time job, and it’s one that government takes seriously as a matter of national defense and safety.

In March, the Armed Services got a boost when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that colleges that accept federal money must allow military recruiters on campus, even if universities object to the nation’s official “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, a coalition of schools in opposition to the 1996 Solomon Amendment.

In its argument, FAIR argued that the Solomon Amendment, which permits the secretary of defense to deny federal grants to colleges that prevent ROTC and military recruitment on campus, forces schools to violate their own anti-discrimination policies.

Schools that object to recruiters on campus must recognize that virtual recruiters are already on every college campus in this country.

Incoming students who want to be considered for financial aid – which defines most students – must complete the federal Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) as part of the application process. Male teens cannot complete the form without first signing up for the Selective Service System, an independent federal agency that exists outside the Department of Defense only, according to its mission, to service the emergency manpower needs of the nation’s military in times of national crisis.

It’s a soft draft. And it’s part of every undergraduate and graduate application process for every male in this country.

Any objection to military recruitment on campus or criticism of payouts to National Guard volunteers is hollow as we mandate registration in the Selective Service.

Military recruitment is an uneasy necessity, but a necessity just the same. The Selective Service makes record of every male, regardless of skill, but that’s the roster we’d have to rely on for defense if the Armed Services and National Guard units fail to attract volunteers enough to man the ranks.

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