The Army, in Need of Recruits, Turns Focus to Liberal-Leaning Cities

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SEATTLE — Army recruiters in Seattle can earn a Friday off for each new soldier they enlist. But in a city with a thriving tech industry and a long history of antiwar protests, the recruiters haven’t gotten many long weekends.

“It’s no secret we’re a little behind,” Sgt. First Class Jeremiah Vargas, who heads the city’s recruiting station, told four recruiters at a morning pep talk in early December. With a week left to go in the 30-day reporting period, he wrote the station’s goal — eight recruits — on a white board, and then the current tally: two.

“What do we need to make mission?” he asked.

One recruiter responded with a shrug, “A miracle.”

The Army is not quite counting on miracles, but after falling 6,500 soldiers short of its goal nationwide for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, it is trying a new strategy that might seem almost as unlikely.

Rather than focus on more conservative regions of the country that traditionally fill the ranks, the Army plans a big push in 22 left-leaning cities, like Chicago, San Francisco and Seattle, where relatively few recruits have signed up.

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