USA Today March 22, 2005 Pg. 1 Reserve, Guard Raise Recruiting Age Move adds 22.6M potential enlistees By Tom Squitieri, USA Today WASHINGTON Battered by an unusually tough recruiting season, the Army has raised the maximum age for recruits for the National Guard and the Army Reserve by five years, from the current 34 years old to 39. The change, which went into effect Friday, gives the Army access to another 22.6 million potential enlistees. The change for the Army Guard and Reserve does not affect recruits for the active-duty Army, the Marines, the Navy or the Air Force, all of whom must still be no older than 34. Recruits for all branches must be at least 17 to sign up. The Army and the Marines have both encountered setbacks in the current recruiting year, but the Army's two part-time branches have suffered the worst shortfalls. As of the end of February, five months into the October-September recruiting year, the Army Reserve was more than 10% behind its 2005 recruiting target, and the National Guard was 24% behind its target, Pentagon figures show. Recruiting has been depressed by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and by yearlong combat call-ups for part-time Guard members and reservists, who usually drill one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer in peacetime. We anticipate that recruiting challenges will continue in 2005, Charles Abell, deputy undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, told Congress recently. Experience has shown that older recruits who can meet the physical demands of military service generally make excellent soldiers based on their maturity, motivation, loyalty and patriotism, an Army statement said. The change applies to men and women with no prior military service who want to enlist in the Army Guard or Reserve. The military accepts older recruits with prior service, and the Army has recalled some former troops in their 50s and 60s for certain specialty jobs. Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va., think tank, says the change is long overdue because the military has been so thinly stretched by major deployments in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Warfare has become more suitable for middle-age troops, he says. Hand-to-hand combat is not a common thing today. About 45% of the 149,000 U.S. forces in Iraq are part-time troops, Pentagon figures show.