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Tribune Editorial: Cheers to Minnesota Guard for high recruitment

The United States may be fighting in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but that hasn't stopped young people from joining the National Guard, at least in Minnesota.

In fact, the Minnesota Army National Guard is attracting more recruits than any other part of the military and is exceeding its recruiting goals -- according to our St. Paul Bureau reporters, Don Davis and Scott Wente.

In Minnesota, 43 percent of those who join the military go into the Army National Guard -- making it the No. 1 choice for military service in the state, at a rate more than twice the national average.

Davis reports that in every part of the state, Minnesota Army Guard recruiters are beating their goals -- in many cases, soundly beating them --for a recruiting year that ends in September.

In the northwest region, recruiters exceeded their goal of 32 new men and women by 126 recruits. Ditto for the northeast region. In the southwest, 181 recruits enlisted, far surpassing the goal of 55.

And the recruits are strong candidates who have passed pass a physical and a written aptitude test.

Deployments to Iraq and other places in recent years have not hurt recruitment, Davis reports, and in fact may have helped in the long run, by rallying communities behind their soldiers.

The Minnesota Guard also boasts one of the country's best retention rates. Ninety percent of recruits who enlist stay on through basic training and individual job training.

That's quite an accomplishment, Davis reports, because while active duty recruits go straight to basic training after enlistment, Guard recruits may not complete basic training and job training until two years after enlistment, making it much easier to lose recruits.

Minnesotans enlist because they are patriotic, and because the National Guard offers strong education benefits. One recruiter said state and federal aid can mean free college education for Guard members, and they can receive additional pay and benefits.

Sgt. Major Tim Bebus of the Army National Guard's recruiting unit attributed the Minnesota numbers to skilled recruiters, the "high quality" of men and women willing to serve and the relationships formed among the Guard and local communities.