MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Seventeen-year-old Yessica Matuce of New York City enlisted in the Army in January. But the attack that brought down the World Trade Center not far from her home had little to do with it.
She says she joined up because she wants to earn money for college, get a law degree and become part of the Army's legal corps.
Matuce is like most recent recruits, the military says.
By most accounts, the flag-waving fervor that followed the horror of Sept. 11 has not yielded the boom in military enlistments that some expected.
The Army, the Navy, the Marines and the Air Force all say that they have been meeting or exceeding their recruiting goals in recent months. But they say that may reflect heavy recruiting efforts and perhaps the downturn in the economy, which has made it harder to find a job.
"As opposed to just wanting to serve their country, I would say it's more personal reasons," says Sgt. Steve Monday, a recruiter in Fontana, Calif. "People want the training, the experience, the college money and the cash bonuses."
After Sept. 11, more people asked about joining the Army. But when they learned about the sacrifices that come with Army service -- the conditions, lifestyle and salary -- many backed out, recruiters say.
"Most people don't join just so they can say, 'Hey, I can fight for my country and go to war,"' says 19-year-old Angelic Espinoza of Houston, who enlisted with the Army's delayed-entry program so she can complete college. "Most of the guys I know, they're just looking for a job."
And that is OK with the Army.
Army Lt. Col. Arnold C. Piper, who is in charge of recruiting for New York, says it is also possible that the risk of going to war has scared off as many potential soldiers as it has attracted.
"Before, you could rationalize that we would never go to war. The thought of going to war was almost in the science-fiction type of realm. Now it's more real," Piper says.
But he adds: "Here in Brooklyn, we could smell the carnage, and the aviation jet fuel was in the air. We were part of it. Some people did enter the Army for that reason."
Matuce, who lives nearby on Staten Island, says she has been interested in the Army since she was a child and the terrorist attacks did not play a role in her decision to enlist.
The Army wants 79,000 civilians transformed into soldiers this year to join the current 482,000 active personnel.
The Army says it has met its recruiting goals since July -- nine straight months. In 2001, 75,855 people were recruited, exceeding the goal of 75,800. The year before, 80,113 joined, compared with 80,000 needed. Recruiting fell short by more than 6,000 people in 1999, with only 68,210 signing up.
"There was minimal impact we can attribute to Sept. 11," says Douglas Smith of the Army recruiting office at Fort Knox, Ky. "We've been seeing recruiting success for quite a few months now, starting before Sept. 11."
The recent successes could instead be attributable to the "Army of One" advertising campaign that started in January 2001, replacing the 20-year-old "Be All You Can Be" drive, officials say.
Similarly, Staff Sgt. John Asselin at the Air Force recruiting headquarters says his branch of the military is having tremendous success enrolling new members, but that is probably due to stepped-up recruiting.
The Navy says that since Sept. 11, it has exceeded its goals by about 5 percent, signing up 21,730 people from October through March.
The Marines say more 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds are joining up, but overall recruiting is holding steady.
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