Three weeks ago, April James, 21, committed the next four years of her life to the U.S. Army.
On Sept. 24, she ships out for nine weeks of basic training camp at Fort Jackson, S.C., before she heads to Fort Lee, N.J., for training to become an automated logistical specialist.
"I've been thinking about it for a while," she said. "I just finally said it's time for me to go. It's what I need to do. I want to help my country."
James, of Olathe, took advantage of a new Quick Ship recruiting campaign.
Since July 25, almost 95 percent of U.S. Army recruits have enlisted on the Quick Ship campaign that offers a $20,000 bonus for anyone willing to leave for basic training by Sept. 30 - basically anyone with James' attitude: "I'm ready to go, and they are ready to send me," she said.
The Army has a goal to recruit 80,000 active duty personnel and 26,500 reservists before its next fiscal year begins Oct. 1. So far nationwide, 7,623 people have enlisted as of Sept. 5, said Doug Smith of the public affairs office for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Ft. Knox, Ky.
According to 1st Sgt. Ricky Paige, a Lawrence recruiter, about 30 people have signed up for Quick Ship in the Kansas City area, which includes Lawrence.
Paige said that years ago, the Army used to send recruits to basic training quickly - in a matter of days, in fact - but now people must pass more clearances before they leave, which means recruits may have to wait more than a month for a basic training slot to open, he said.
Smith said recruiting has been difficult in recent years for several reasons. Those include the war in Iraq and an increasing number of high school seniors who begin college immediately after graduation.
"There are some who may have considered enlistment, but want to go straight to college and see the Army as an interruption of their plans," he said.
All the recruits that signed before October will affect the Army's 2008 goals.
"Every person we put into our 2007 shipping will be potentially pulled from 2008," Smith said. "It will be a difficult recruiting year again. We won't let up the pace. In 2008, we'll be trying to recruit 80,000 again."