Washington The U.S. Army recruited more than 2,600 soldiers under new lower aptitude standards this year, helping the service beat its goal of 80,000 recruits in the throes of an unpopular war and mounting casualties.
The recruiting mark comes a year after the Army missed its recruitment target by the widest margin since 1979, which had triggered a boost in the number of recruiters, increased bonuses, and changes in standards.
The Army recruited 80,635 soldiers, roughly 7,000 more than last year. Of those, about 70,000 were first-time recruits who had never served before.
According to statistics obtained by The Associated Press, 3.8 percent of the first-time recruits scored below certain aptitude levels. In previous years, the Army had allowed only 2 percent of its recruits to have low aptitude scores. That limit was increased last year to 4 percent, the maximum allowed by the Defense Department.
The Army said all the recruits with low scores had received high school diplomas. In a written statement, the Army said good test scores do not necessarily equate to quality soldiers. Test-taking ability, the Army said, does not measure loyalty, duty, honor, integrity or courage.
Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a private research group, said there is a "fine balance between the need for a certain number of recruits and the standards you set."
"Tests don't tell you the answer to the most critical question for the Army, how will you do in combat?" Goure said. But, he added, accepting too many recruits with low test scores could increase training costs and leave technical jobs unfilled.
About 17 percent of the first-time recruits, or about 13,600, were accepted under waivers for various medical, moral or criminal problems, including misdemeanor arrests or drunken driving. That is a slight increase from last year, the Army said.
Of those accepted under waivers, more than half were for "moral" reasons, mostly misdemeanor arrests.
The Army said the waiver process recognizes that people can overcome past mistakes and become law-abiding citizens.
New slogan unveiled
Also Monday, the Army announced it is replacing its main ad slogan - "An Army of One" - with one it hopes will pack more punch for future recruiting: "Army Strong."
The new approach, the fruit of a $200 million-a-year contract with a major advertising agency, was announced by Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey. He said "Army Strong" will be the centerpiece of a multimedia ad campaign to be launched Nov. 9, timed to coincide with Veterans Day weekend.
The Army adopted the "Army of One" slogan in January 2001. It had replaced the "Be All You Can Be" campaign, which lasted nearly 20 years but which Army officials had soured on at a time of recruiting problems.