Recruiters find war can be sign-up obstacle

CLEVELAND (AP) - Phones are ringing more in some military recruiting offices since the war began, but that does not mean more recruits.

"For every 10 who feel a surge of patriotism, there's a like number reconsidering," said Lt. Col. Randy Stephan, commander of the Army Recruiting Battalion of Northern Ohio. "It's pretty much a wash."

Congress has determined that the armed services must recruit nearly 200,000 people this year. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines will spend $2.5 billion on recruiting.

Last year, the four armed forces signed 1,000 more men and women than the goal of 195,472, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

Stephan's battalion has 140 recruiters at 33 stations. They seek to recruit 2,000 people this year.

The recruiters make cold calls through thick rosters of high school graduates and college students.

Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate and meet physical, mental and moral criteria. They must pass an aptitude test, background check and medical exam.

Often, they are people like Nick Kushner, 21, of Cleveland. The lanky father of two walked into the recruiting station recently, dissatisfied with his job as a mechanic.

Kushner said he has come to his decision quickly. The build up and war in Iraq brought the military into his view as a career, something he would never have considered before.

Not that he's eager to see battle.

"I'd really rather not," he said. "I'm an only child and have kids and so forth. But if I have to, hey, let's go."

Army recruits join for a variety of reasons, chiefly education, training, money and adventure.

On a recent morning, Army Sgt. Justin C. Scott was "prospecting" at SouthPark Mall, in suburban Strongsville, cruising both levels of the mall in search of young adults.

Scott said he is not always welcome in the mall. A security guard asked him to leave on one occasion, after someone complained that he was harassing people.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)