The Army exceeded its monthly recruiting goal in December but must still pick up the pace to meet its target of 80,000 for the budget year ending Sept. 30.

December was the seventh consecutive month that the Army met its goal.

Army officials have said they expect this to be an extremely difficult year for recruiting, in part because of the Iraq war. Last year, the service fell 6,600 troops short of its goal of 80,000.

So far, in the first three months of this budget year, the Army has recruited just 11,500 soldiers and will need to do better in coming months to meet the target for the year.

Part of the problem with the first quarter is that the December goal is just a fraction of the other monthly targets. It only required the Army to recruit 700 soldiers last month, compared to the November target of 5,600.

According to Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, the December goal is low because no recruits are sent to basic training during that month. So only soldiers who have previously served in the Army — and don't have to go to boot camp — are recruited in December. A year ago, the goal for December was just 400.

The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps also exceeded their monthly recruiting goals — which were all two to three times the Army's number. All four military services also met or exceeded their reenlistment goals for the month.

According to the Pentagon, the Army recruited 741 soldiers in December, 6 percent more than its goal. The Navy recruited 2,022, just 1 percent more than its goal; the Air Force recruited 2,209, also 1 percent more than its goal; and the Marine Corps recruited 1,717, 6 percent more than its goal.

Four of the military reserves met or exceeded their recruitment goals. The Navy Reserve and the Air National Guard have been routinely falling short of their targets in recent months.