The leader of the Iowa National Guard is suggesting the organization to broaden its outreach, in an effort to attract more recruits from non-military families.

Adjutant General Timothy Orr says the Iowa Guard has “maintained its position in personnel readiness,” but recruiting “high-quality men and women” in the future could be a challenge.

“With only three out of ten 17 to 24 year-olds eligible today for military service due to various reasons, there’s significant concern among civilian and military leaders about the future of our military and the readiness of our force to defend this nation in the years ahead,” Orr said. The concern, according to Orr, is driven by the large percentage of U.S. service members who come from military families.

“We are effectively creating a class in our society that is carrying the burden for the remainder of the citizens,” Orr said. It’s “critically important,” Orr said, to “broaden the scope” of those serving in the military to include people from different backgrounds.

“According to the Department of Defense, since our country ended the draft in 1973, more than 80-percent of our service members come from a family where at least one parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, sibling or cousin has served, and more than 25% of our troops have at least one parent who has served,” Orr said.

The “centerpiece” of recruiting efforts in Iowa, according to Orr, is the Iowa National Guard Education Assistance Program. NGEAP is funded by the state. “This year, more than 1,200 of our members received up to 100% tuition paid at the State Regents’ rate to attend Iowa colleges, universities, and community colleges through this program, keeping our young people in the state and providing them with a high-quality Iowa education,” Orr said.

Orr made his comments in his annual Condition of the Guard address last week at the Capitol.