The Army has missed its recruitment goal for the first time in more than a decade. Army leaders say they signed up approximately 70,000 new troops for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2018.
(AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)
For the first time since 2005, the U.S. Army missed its target of recruiting this year, falling short by about 6,500 soldiers, despite the casting of an additional $200 million in bonuses and the adoption of a number of additional exemptions for bad behavior or health.
Army leaders said they signed on about 70,000 new active duty recruits in the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30 — well below the 76,500 needed them. The Army, the National Guard and the Army Reserves also fell far short of their goals, by more than 12,000 and 5,000 respectively. The Navy, air force and Marine Corps, meanwhile, have already met their recruiting goals for 2018.
The Army of the shortages, said Maj. Gen. Joe Calloway, was fueled by the strong U.s. economy and increased competition from employers in the private sector that can pay more. But the failure has led to a revision in the Army to recruit, including an increase in recruiters, extensive marketing and a new attempt to reach out to young, potential recruits via popular online gaming.
“Of course, We thought we would do better than that,” said Calloway, director of military personnel management for the Army, when he was asked about the recruiting gap is in an Associated Press interview. He said that there are a few thousand permanent legal residents looking to call, but they did not get through the screening process at the time. And, he said that in the last three years, Army recruiters have brought 3.000-5.000 enlistees than planned during the last three months of the year.
“There was the hope that she would be able to do the same this year,” he said. “That did not pan out.”
The recruitment of the battle at the end of a tumultuous year for the Army, who are confronted with questions from the Congress about the extension of the waivers for recruits with previous marijuana use, bad behavior and certain health problems. The debate prompted the Army to cut back on a number of exemptions and require a higher level of officers for the approval of those in which drug use and health and behavior problems.
Top Army leaders have repeatedly said they are not lowering the standards to meet higher recruiting goals. But they are confronted with the skepticism of Congress, amid concerns the service would repeat the mistakes made during the peak of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for more than a decade ago, then hastened to add soldiers to the ranks to meet the deployment needs. At that time, the Army brought in more recruits with misconduct waivers, activate discipline and other problems.
The Army intends to grow to 500,000 by 2024, triggering increased recruiting goals. In the first instance, the Army was supposed to recruit 80,000 this year, but that was reduced to 76,500 in April, as more serving soldiers and re-logged in.
Military recruiters have struggled to compete in a growing economy of the V. S., with a low unemployment rate and private sector companies have to pay more for graduating seniors. Only about 30 percent of the 17 – to 24-year-olds meet the physical, mental and moral requirements for the military, and only one in eight are interested in serving.
Finding those few is a challenge.
Calloway and Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of the Army Recruiting Command, said less potential recruits or their families, answering the phone in these digital days.
When recruiters call with a parent or other adult, “no one wants to talk to us,” Muth said. “If we do get ahold of a potential recruit they don’t actually want to talk to you about the telephone, what they want to do is to your online first time, in a sort of digital format and then, if they agree to meet with you, you can make the call.”
So, Muth said Army recruiting is moving deeper into the online world.
That will include sending teams of recruiters in CrossFit sports games and popular gaming competitions such as Ultimate Fighter, Madden Football, or the addictive Fortnite: Battle Royale, a online survival game.
Muth said an Army recruiter from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, which has a high ranking on the Ultimate Fighter, served as an emcee at a recent tournament. He said the soldier was in uniform and was able to talk about his Army job, while on the air.
“We reach 2.4 million people more than an hour, and he was able to get the message across,” said Muth.
The goal, he said, is to have recruiters in uniform to play the games in tournaments, in reaching their target audience. The soldiers will be limited on the games they can play, and there is supervision by the officers.
In addition, he said the Army’s Golden Knights parachute demonstration team, the Marksmanship Unit and other similar teams that travel the country is now mainly used as recruiting tools.
“When these games or these events occur, the focus and number one priority is the recruitment and prospecting and getting leads,” said Muth.
The immersion in gaming is a reflection of a larger online presence that recruiters use to find and reach of the recruits. Muth said that they now use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitch on their government phones to speak online with young people.
He said: as a recruiter a visit to a secondary school and a student “likes” of the local recruitment Facebook page, the soldier can follow and the message of the student to see if they are interested in the Army.
It is too early to say whether any of the new online maneuvers work. Muth said the first quarter of the year will be of crucial importance.
“I have no benchmarks yet,” he said. “But history will tell you if you are in a call with a recruiter, you have to come out strong. And it is the momentum you build that carries you through the whole year.”