The Marine Corps once again met or slightly outperformed its goals for recruiting across all major categories in the past fiscal year, according to recruiting numbers released Thursday to Marine Corps Times.

The Corps was the only branch other than the relatively small Space Force to hit its recruitment targets by Oct. 1, the end of the federal government’s fiscal year, as the Defense Department has struggled to attract qualified young people.

“I’m mindful of how challenging an environment this is and want to publicly give credit to our professional recruiters and all our Marines who uphold our rigorous standards 24/7,” Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine commandant, said in a Sept. 28 post on X, formerly known as Twitter. “They are setting the example.”

Smith announced in the post that the Corps had met its goals, but specific data wasn’t publicly available at that point.

Jim Edwards, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, said via email Thursday that the service exceeded its goal for non-prior-service enlistments by 21 people, for a total of 33,323 new or soon-to-be Marines.

Broken down, that means 28,921 new enlisted Marines in the active force and 4,402 new Marines in the Reserve, according to Edwards.

The Marine Corps is getting 1,694 new officers, 20 more than the target, according to the spokesman. That’s 1,602 active-duty officers and 92 Reserve officers.

The Corps exceeded its target for prior-service accessions — enlisted and officers — by 310 Marines, for a total of 4,487, according to Edwards.

“While arguably facing the most challenging recruiting environment since the establishment of the all-volunteer force,” Edwards said, referring to the end of the draft in 1973, “our success is a direct result of the hard work of Marines serving on recruiting duty.”

The Army has had such trouble recruiting in the last two years that its end strength shrank from 485,000 in late 2021 to around 452,000 active duty soldiers today — its smallest full-time force since 1940, Army Times reported. The service’s dismal recruiting numbers in 2023 prompted sweeping changes to recruiting, including the establishment of specialized recruiting jobs and a new focus on attracting college-educated recruits.

The Navy missed its targets for active-duty enlisted sailors by more than 7,450 accessions, Navy Times reported. The service failed to meet targets for officers and Reserve enlisted sailors, too.

The Air Force was also slated to fall short of its targets, Air Force Times reported in September.

The Space Force, which falls under the Department of the Air Force, surpassed its enlisted goal of 472 new guardians, making it the only service other than the Marine Corps to meet its recruiting goals. The Space Force has fewer than 9,000 service members total, most of them former airmen.

Marine Corps and Space Force recruiting also outperformed the other services in fiscal year 2022.

Military leaders and commentators have blamed Gen Zers’ reluctance to enlist on factors ranging from a lack of encouragement by influential people in their lives to a supposed leftward political shift within the military to a tight labor market. And most youth aren’t even qualified to enlist.

Some recruiters have also pointed to the early 2022 rollout in recruiting of a new medical screening system, Military Health System Genesis, which makes it harder for applicants to enlist if they’ve had documented medical issues.

Irene Loewenson is a staff reporter for Marine Corps Times. She joined Military Times as an editorial fellow in August 2022. She is a graduate of Williams College, where she was the editor-in-chief of the student newspaper.

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