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Switching services has slowed to a trickle since the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, when hundreds of sailors and airmen were jumping the Navy and Air Force.
Newly released Defense Department data show that just a few years ago, despite the grueling operational tempo faced by soldiers in most units, the Army was bringing in more than 100 recruits per year with prior active-duty service, many of them former airmen.
That trend peaked in 2006, when the Army recruited 186 new soldiers with prior service in a different branch, including 104 former airmen and 56 former sailors. And transfers into the Marine Corps peaked in 2005 and 2006 as the Corps took in dozens of prior service recruits, the bulk of them from the Navy.
Some of those sailors and airmen moving to the ground combat services may have been looking to get closer to the fight in one of those wars. But for many, it was likely a matter of extending their military careers. In the mjiddle of last decade, the Navy and Air Force were going through significant downsizing of their active-duty components. But under a program known as “Blue to Green,” a fair number of qualified sailors and airmen were able to transfer into the Army and stay on active duty — and some drew a nice $10,000 bonus to boot.
The Blue to Green program technically still exists, but these days, only a few dozen people each year choose to separate from one service and put on another uniform. The Army is still pulling in the most, drawing a total of 19 recruits with prior active-duty service in another branch last year.
The Navy — the only service that is currently not planning a substantial drawdown in forces — came in a close second, pulling in 18 new sailors from the other branches.
The Marines are getting almost no transfers these days; over the past three years, the Corps has taken in a total of only four people with prior service in another branch.