ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, Feb. 10, 2009) - The Army National Guard missed its recruiting goal for the month of January, but it remains slightly over its congressionally-mandated end strength of 358,200, an Army Guard official confirmed today.

"We're paying a success dividend," said Army Lt. Col. Ron Walls, the chief of recruiting and retention for the Army National Guard.

"Our numbers are off the program goal, but that's O.K., because of where we are with our end strength," he said. "We have never been more whole than we are right now from a readiness perspective."

The Army Guard signed 4,913 new Soldiers, 88 percent of its goal of 5,577 enlistees for January, according to a Department of Defense news release issued today. The Air National Guard got 896 new Airmen, 127 percent of its goal of 703 enlistees.

A total of 366,009 Soldiers are currently assigned to the Army Guard, which puts it at 102 percent of its end-strength goal for this fiscal year.

Walls said the Army Guard has been able to drive up end strength through its innovative recruiting programs, such as G-RAP and Active First, and re-enlistment rates that have remained steady despite an increasing ops tempo.

"We will focus on where we are," he said. "And right now we are above in end strength, and our quality marks are stronger than ever and we will use that to our advantage."

Walls added that the Army Guard's quality marks have not been this high since 2003.

"We are now fine tuning what we have," he said.

While going after this quality market, Walls said the Army Guard will continue to "shape our incentives based on funding availability and focus heavily on Soldiers in formations already."

"They pay the price," he said. "They are part of a team already, and there are dollars associated with them from a training perspective."

Keeping trained Soldiers helps with readiness, and "there is goodness in that as well," Walls said.

In the future, Walls predicted that the Army Guard will continue to provide incentives to a variety of populations from high school students to 40-year-olds.

"We're looking at that now as far as innovative measures to reach those populations and give them the opportunity to serve in our formations," he said.

With the nation's focus shifting to the economy, Walls said the Army Guard must come up with new non-monetary incentive programs to gain accessions.

And because of that, he said the Army Guard will not rest on its laurels.

"The ingenuity of the team that we have here at the Guard Bureau is never ending," Walls said. "It's about what we do with what we have right now. And we always have more innovative programs in the hopper."

(Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke serves with the National Guard Bureau.)