(D)espite the dangers and the juggling of families and civilian careers with more and longer deployments, (Sgt. 1st Class Ken) Allmon is among the 80 percent of soldiers and airmen responding to a first-ever public survey of the Utah National Guard who indicated they are staying in the military, with nearly 20 percent saying they are getting out.
Utah's high retention rate is typical nationwide, as veterans offset new-recruit shortfalls. In the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the U.S. armed forces missed their recruitment goal by nearly 13,000 new soldiers, squeezing veterans even more.
"The problem is that as the force gets older and higher in rank, the Army has a hard time maintaining lower-rank jobs that are critical to the military," said Mike O'Hanlon, senior fellow at the Brookings Institute in Washington, D.C. "I don't know when it will get too disruptive, when one unit has to borrow soldiers from another to fill out its ranks. But it's significant when 5 percent of the force has to serve at the wrong rank."
For his part, Sgt. 1st Class John Kyle Hill, who served two stints in Afghanistan as a medic with the 19th Special Forces, is staying in and hoping for another tour. Hill, a Nebo School District high school science teacher, said that unlike many of his students, his comrades are highly motivated. "We lived on the edge in a life-and-death situation," said Hill, 42. "There was no apathy, no laziness. It was ennobling. It was the greatest thing I've ever done."
1st Lt. Bruce Bishop, 31, a Salt Lake County firefighter, said he'll stay "because as I look around at the state of this nation and see all of the weak little pampered candy-asses that are whining about this or protesting that, I'd be afraid to leave the fate of this nation entirely up to them." Bishop, who served in Afghanistan, is among the 450 Utah Guard members deployed to Louisiana. Most are volunteers.
27 October 2005
Salt Lake Tribune: