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Sunday, April 22, 2007

Army Guard Marks Hitting End Strength Benchmark

The Army Guard celebrated reaching its full authorized troop strength with a small party at the Army National Guard Readiness Center in Arlington, Va., Wednesday. The event marked the Army Guard's return to 350,000 soldiers for the first time in three and a half years.

"This is a day of celebration for us, a piece of history, really," said Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn, Army Guard director. "People said the Guard was not capable of making 350,000." The Army Guard ended the month of March with 350,421 soldiers - the first time it hit or exceeded 350,000 troops since September 2003. Army Guard personnel strength fell gradually after that, standing at about 333,000 troops in September 2005.

Army officials wanted to cut funding in fiscal 2006 for the empty positions, but Guard officials vowed to restore the force's personnel strength. General Vaughn said they turned the situation around with increased bonuses, a larger recruiting force and new marketing and advertising campaigns.

One key, he said, was the Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP). The program pays qualified part-time soldiers up to $2,000 for every person they help enlist. Officials said 31,026 of the Army Guard's new soldiers were recruited through G-RAP.

During Wednesday's party, pictures of flying pigs adorned the Readiness Center lobby. General Vaughn said the artwork was intended to poke a little fun at the Army Guard's doubters. "[They] said the Guard will make 350,000 when pigs fly," he said. "Pigs are flying."

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