Thousands Delay Plans to Leave US Military
Antonio Gozikowski was planning to leave the United States Army next month and go to college.
Gozikowski, an Army Sergeant, has served six years in the military. His goal in college was to expand his medical skills, become a dentist and then return to the Army in a few years. But the coronavirus health crisis is forcing universities to consider online classes or reduced schooling.
So, Gozikowski decided to sign up for a new Army program and extend his military service for six more months.
Concerns about future jobs or college classes are driving more U.S. military members to either remain in the armed forces or delay leaving. The weakened economic conditions make the job security, guaranteed pay and benefits of the military much more appealing.
Gozikowski said, "Everything from elementary schools to universities is closing down and there's no saying how it's going to go when the fall semester opens."
He told The Associated Press that the military provides work and guaranteed wages.
Gozikowski is one of hundreds of armed forces members who have accepted short-term extensions being offered by the military. As of last week, the Army had already passed its goal of keeping 50,000 soldiers for the fiscal year. More than 52,000 have signed up for the extensions. The Navy and other military services also have met or are closer than planned to their target numbers.
The large number of individuals choosing to stay in the armed forces will make up for any shortage in the number of new recruits resulting from the coronavirus pandemic. That will help the military meet its total required troop levels for the end of the year.
Army Sergeant Major Stuart Morgan provides career guidance to armed forces members. He says the Army's program lets members postpone their departure for up to 11 months. By early last week, he said, 745 soldiers had signed up.
"What we're seeing this year, which is directly related to COVID, is we do have a population of soldiers that what they were expecting at the end of transition has suddenly disappeared," Morgan said. "And now you have a soldier that is trying to go through a transition period that is now facing uncertainty on the outside."
The U.S. Air Force is already expecting to fall short of its recruiting goal by as much as 5,800 because of the virus. The Air Force said that shortfall could be filled by individuals who decide to extend their military service.
So far, the number of Air Force members who have asked to extend their service is 700 more than at this time last year.
Retention is also on the rise in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Currently, there are about 183,000 Marines. The goal for the end of the fiscal year is about 184,600. The Marine Corps has nearly reached its retention goal of about 12,600 for the fiscal year.
I'm Jonathan Evans.