Just as unemployment numbers are going up, so too has military recruitment. Pentagon officials say the economic downturn and rising unemployment rates are making the military a more attractive option.
Private Josh Rojas just finished boot camp.
"It was a very big change for me. I came in not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life and they helped me decide," said Pvt. Josh Rojas, United States Marine Corps.
Marine Corps recruiting centers like the one in Azusa have been busy.
"We have seen a spike of applicants coming in but it's mostly between the ages of 21 and 26," said Gunnery Sgt. Paul Romero. "On the average usually we were getting most applicants straight out of high school."
And military analysts say the spike is coming just in time, after years of missing recruiting marks largely attributed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Recruiting has now become even more vital as the military plans to expand so it can relieve the strain on troops and their families.
The Army exceeded its goal by 293 recruits in October, 730 in November, 429 in December, and 706 recruits in January, according to U.S. Army statistics.
The Marine Corps has already reached its expansion goal, allowing recruiters to be more selective.
"It just gives us the opportunity to kind of pinpoint the more quality applicant for the Marine Corps right now," said Gunnery Sgt. Romero.
Since the military became an all-volunteer force in 1973, recruiters have generally done well during recessions. Though military analysts warn that people who are joining the ranks for purely economic reasons might not make the best candidates, particularly when the economy turns around and they realize they still must complete their service.
"When someone decides to join the Marine Corps, we're looking at people that are wanting to join to be a Marine, because first and foremost that's why we join the Marines, to get the title of a Marine," said Gunnery Sgt. Romero.
Military leaders say one of the main draws continues to be service to country. Even if somebody is joining because they can't find a job elsewhere, they know this decision could mean trip to the front lines.
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