WASHINGTON – Want to serve your country? Hurry up and wait six months.
Since September's terror attacks, more than a few good men and women have been looking for work with the armed services, law enforcement and some other government agencies.
But they are discovering that getting the job is the same long paper trail it was before the attacks on New York and Washington.
Inquiries have more than doubled since Sept. 11, and job openings specifically related to the terrorist attacks have attracted thousands.
Recruiters welcome the enthusiam but indicate — gently — that the lengthy interviews, tests and background checks remain in place.
It's one thing to want to don a uniform. It's another thing to make it through boot camp.
"Some have asked if we have changed our standards," said Marine Master Sgt. Ron Turner. "We haven't done so. This is still a tough club to join."
Turner said Marine recruiters have dissuaded some eager recruits from opting out of a year of psychological and physical preparation, and going straight to boot camp.
One retired Marine, age 69, called to say he wanted to help out the corps any way he could. He offered to make coffee.
Navy recruiters say that almost all the newly interested are too young or too old — people who hoped the Navy had relaxed its recruiting age range of 17 to 34. It had not.
But some are just right.
Thomas Gaster, 18, of Lincoln, Neb., went straight to the local Navy recruiting station after he heard of the attacks. "I want to make the terrorists pay for what they did to the United States," he said. "Americans love their freedom, and when it comes time they will defend it."
Calls to the Marines' toll-free number more than doubled since the attacks and other services have seen similar increases. Staff at Air Force call centers are working overtime.
Air Force spokesman Capt. John Thomas said calls started coming within hours of the attacks.
"At first, that sort of warmed our hearts and made us proud to be in the Air Force," Thomas said. "Then we said, wait a second, these are people we might very well want to get back in touch with."
The interest has naturally extended to ultra-secretive agencies.
"We at the NSA appreciate your interest in us" is the new greeting on the National Security Agency's employment Web site, probably the first time it has appreciated anyone's interest.
An NSA spokesman said the spy agency has received 6,600 resumes since Sept. 11 — more than double its monthly average of 2,700.
The CIA is even busier. The agency normally receives about 500 offers to work every week, spokesman Mark Mansfield said. In the first two weeks since the attack, it got more than 10,000.
That was unprecedented, Mansfield said. "They want to make a contribution to the national security of the country."
Openings generated by the attacks have registered especially strong interest.
After President Bush said he wanted air marshals on virtually every domestic and international flight — until now, their presence had been restricted to select international flights — the Federal Aviation Administration got 34,000 applications.
Similarly, an FBI call for 200 speakers of Arabic, Farsi and Pashto netted 1,400 applications within days. Usama bin Laden and his followers are mostly Arabic speakers. Farsi and Pashto are the two main Afghan languages.
And it's not just the glory jobs: Desk jockeys at the State Department have also recorded an increased interest in jobs.
Job applicants still face a daunting employment bureaucracy, complete with a complex point system that penalizes applicants who do not fill out their forms perfectly.
Some have to deliver full high school records — not easy for a retiree.
To fill the opening for a Forest Service accountant in Missoula, Mont., applicants have to write two lengthy essays on top of everything else.
Max Stier, who heads the Partnership for Public Service, a private think tank that promotes government employment, said the government should seize the opportunity created by the newfound interest to make it easier for people to get hired.
"September 11 made people more receptive to the idea that government matters," he said.
One of the few agencies to relax a standard is the FAA. It raised its maximum hiring age for air marshals to 40 from 37 — an exception allowed earlier only for retired lawmen.
The government has allowed some leeway for ex-employees, waiving a requirement that people coming back give up their retirement annuities.
That's a relief for some agencies looking for quick staff fixes after a long period of cuts. The NSA plans to rehire 100 of its retirees, and other agencies say they are also calling experienced ex-employees.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.