Cross: Retention, Not Recruiting Is Issue

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Mississippi now has almost 4,000 National Guard men and women deployed on active duty. Since Sept. 11, 2001, over 8,000 Mississippians have been mobilized.

Maj. Gen. Harold Cross, Mississippi's adjutant general, says it is and has been a great sacrifice for these troops.

Gen. Cross says with the current posture of the U.S. military forces, the Guard has to be there when called upon.

"We're part of the total force and we have to go to war on day one. We're not like the strategic reserves that were in place in the Cold War," Cross said.

There has been criticism from some corners that the military is simply overextended. While that may be true, Cross says national guard recruitment in Mississippi is as positive as it has ever been.

"We're down a little on retention. We're losing some soldiers, not necessarily because of their own willingness to get out. It's because of employers and family stresses and things like that," Cross said. "So we are down some, as the entire National Guard throughout the United States is."

But Cross said the Mississippi Army National Guard still has 9,715 troops and the Air Guard about 2,600.

Whether the problem in the military, in general, is too many missions, or difficulty recruiting or retaining service men and women, the U.S. Army is taking a unique approach to solving it by appealing to retirees.

Officials have sent out an e-mail asking for volunteers to return to service for at least 18 months to fill vacancies as recruiters or civil affairs officers.

A spokesman said the recruitment effort isn't directly connected to the military's staffing commitments around the world, but to fill more than 800 openings for highly skilled positions.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.