LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – National Guard officials in Washington said last month the service has missed a recruiting goal by thousands. While Michigan’s numbers remain high, officials say there are some challenges ahead.

“We got the bodies now. But we’re trying to get ahead of it before we do fall behind. So, every day, every body, every number counts,” said Lt. Jerred Johnson with the Michigan Army National Guard.

In September, federal officials said the Air National Guard missed its recruiting goal by 3,000 and the Army National Guard missed its goal by double that number.

But here at home, officials said they hit 60% of their target number, nearly matching the number of people leaving the service. To increase the numbers, the branch is offering bonuses and has looked into bringing back active duty members as reservists. Johnson said programs are even helping applicants meet physical fitness requirements.

“You hear a lot about lowering the standards. There is not a lowering of the standards. Standards are still there. We’re just helping these kids get to where they need to be,” Johnson said.

Master Sergeant Jeff Koss oversees recruiting for the Michigan Air National Guard. He said most of the units around the state have hit 100% of their staffing goals. Along with tactics the Army is using, Koss said the pandemic has changed fitness standards.

“Our waist measurement has gone away for the time being. So obviously, if you are 6-foot-five and are 250 [pounds] but you are in phenomenal shape, you don’t have to worry about that waist anymore,” he said. “Usually that is something that could hinder someone in the past but right now we don’t have that issue.”

Both branches said the job market has made recruiting more competitive. But Johnson sees it as a plus.

“Now, we are just getting the kids that just want to serve. And that’s the best option for us anyways,” said the recruiter.

Michigan State University professor Fredrick Morgeson said the contrast between state and national recruiting numbers comes down to factors like location.

“What you’re offering and the composition of the people and what they are looking for in terms of a career certainly does vary,” he said.

Both recruiters and Morgeson agree the last two years have created a brand awareness challenge. Online classes have kept recruiters out of schools and in-person events. Both Johnson and Koss said their branches are now looking to make up lost ground with social media and a return to in-person recruiting.