Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sailors Re-Enlisting at near Record Rate Pay Increase, Patriotism, Soft Economy Cited

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Sailors Re-Enlisting at near Record Rate Pay Increase, Patriotism, Soft Economy Cited

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Davis, Times-Union staff writer

Considerable pay and benefit increases coupled with a surge of patriotism are keeping more people in the Navy, leading to possible record-high retention numbers and prompting a scale-back in recruiting.

Since October, about 66 percent of first-term sailors eligible to leave the service decided to stay in, almost six percentage points above last year. Last month alone more than 80 percent of first-term sailors re-enlisted.

"The numbers are quite remarkable," said Capt. Jake Ross, director for the Navy's Center for Career Development in Millington, Tenn. "This is just a phenomenal trend that we've had, the highest in anyone's memory."

Enough numbers were not available for Mayport Naval Station, Jacksonville Naval Air Station and Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia to present an accurate representation of local base retention.

Kings Bay, however, has the highest retention rate of any Navy base, said Lt. Doug Gabos, base spokesman.

Climbing retention rates are not an anomaly for the Navy. Thousands of other armed forces personnel are choosing to stay in the military, citing pay increases and a soft economy.

But Navy officers are the first to have taken a step in controlling the high numbers of sailors signing up to stay in, by cutting the recruiting target for 2002 by about 10 percent, or 5,500 sailors.

Each branch of service has a manpower ceiling but, under opposition from the Bush administration, Congress is trying to increase that number. Just last week, U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Fla., and his fellow members on the House Armed Services Committee approved a 1 percent increase, about 12,000 personnel.

Navy career counselors, who help sailors make decisions about their career paths, are pointing to several factors for the increase in re-enlistees.

The current administration has already upped pay for officers and enlisted by 21 percent over the past two years, the largest pay raise since 1981, Navy career spokesmen said.

"This administration is more military-friendly," said Gary Miller, Mayport Naval Station career counselor. Miller recalls how just three years ago it was more difficult to keep people in the service competing with a strong economy and abundant opportunities for well-trained, disciplined people in the civilian work world.

"Our pay is very close now," Miller said. "I can point it out in dollars and cents to these young people."

Miller also argues he can offer the sailors who walk into his office job security and consumer-protected retirement that companies on the outside can't.

However, the increase in military pay did not begin with President Bush's election, argues David Segal, director for the Maryland-based Center for Research on Military Organization. …

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