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New National Guard program bringing in Army recruits

Washington_A new Army recruiting program that relies on National Guard soldiers to help recruit for the active duty Army has brought more than 500 sign-ups in its first three months, according to the Guard.

The results surpass initial Army expectations, and total nearly one-third of the service's annual goal of 1,600 for the pilot program, which was launched last Oct. 1, according to National Guard spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke.

Also, both the active duty Army and the Guard met their recruiting goals for December.

The new recruiting program - called Active First - provides extra bonuses to National Guard recruiters who bring recruits into the active duty Army. Under the program, the recruits join the Guard but indicate that they are intending to shift to active duty.

After they finish basic training they can either sign up for 30, 36 or 48 months in the active Army, or change their mind and simply stay in the Guard. Recruits can get bonuses of as much as $40,000, $30,000 or $20,000 for the 48, 36, or 30-month sign-ups, respectively, and then get an additional $20,000 bonus when they eventually shift back to the Guard.

As of Jan. 4, Guard recruiters had brought in 506 soldiers in the Active First program.

The Army has been under growing pressure to strengthen recruiting, due largely to the ongoing effort to boost the size of the Army.

Plans are to increase the number of the active-duty Army, Army Guard and Army Reserve by 74,000 overall, with the active-duty force growing by 65,000 to a total of 547,000. In October, top Army leaders said they planned to move faster to increase the size of the force - adding the full 74,000 soldiers by 2010, two years sooner than originally planned.

Accelerating the increase is aimed at relieving the strain on forces already stretched by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Originally the growth was to take place over five years, now it will be done in three.

The active-duty troop increase - which will boost the number of combat brigades from the 2006 level of 42 to 48 - will cost $2.63 billion.

Roughly half of the 65,000 increase has already been achieved.

Lolita C. Baldor AP Writer © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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