National Guard troops leaving faster than new enlistments
National Guard officials reported total annual loss of 7,500 members
Army National Guard soldiers are reportedly leaving at a faster rate than they are enlisting.
According to officials, there is a total annual loss of about 7,500 service members.
Maj. Gen. Rich Baldwin, chief of staff of the Army National Guard, told The Associated Press that current staffing challenges are the worst he’s seen in the last 20 years.
While he said the impact on the branch is "minimal and manageable," Baldwin predicted that "readiness issues related to strength" would begin to emerge within its units within the next year or two.
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Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, said both the Army and Air Guards failed to meet their goals for the total number of service members in the fiscal year that ended last Friday – ending about 2% below the goal.
The Air Guard missed its total goal by nearly 3%.
The Army Guard’s authorized total is 336,000, and the Air Guard's is 108,300.
There are multiple reasons for the losses, and all of the armed services struggled to meet recruiting goals this year.
There was a 10% shortfall in the number of current Army National Guard soldiers who opted to reenlist.
"Today, we have a much lower overseas deployment tempo than we’ve been used to and almost all of the COVID support missions have been ramped down," Baldwin said. "We join to make a difference by serving others and by being part of something bigger than ourselves. ... There may be a perception among both our soldiers and the civilians we are trying to recruit that we are on the backside of all of that and it’s time to take advantage of the hot job market we have right now."
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In addition, the Guard is facing increasing losses due to the military's requirement that all members get vaccinated against COVID-19.
About 9,000 are refusing to get the shot, and another 5,000 have sought religious, medical or administrative exemptions.
So far, however, none have been discharged for refusing the vaccine order.
Hokanson suggested that things like providing healthcare coverage, educational benefits and recruiting incentives would help.
"We need to make adjustments based on the current environment because for the long term, our nation needs a National Guard the size that we are, or maybe even larger to meet all the requirements that we have," he said. "It’s up to us to make sure that we fill our formations so that they’re ready when our nation needs us."
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Fox News Digital's request for comment from the Guard was not immediately returned.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.