The Army Reserve is doing very well in recruiting privates and retaining sergeants major, but has only 60 percent of the sergeants first class it needs.
In its officer ranks, the Army Reserve has 64 percent of the captains and 70 percent of the majors it needs. The Army Reserve has 60 to 70 percent of the warrant officers it needs.
Brig. Gen. Leslie Purser is charged with bringing the Army Reserve ranks into balance in rank and military occupational specialties. "We’ve got to have more focus efforts, more precision.
"A couple of years ago, we were at 185,000" in end strength, "and we went into a hard court press" to raise the numbers to the authorized end strength of 205,000.
The Army Reserve is now slightly over its end strength level of 206,000.
"We’re looking for prior service" soldiers.
That means reaching out to them when they have about nine months to go on their enlistment and show them what the Army Reserve has to officer.
Purser said that among the reasons soldiers give for leaving active duty are the impact of the deployments on their families, but a number of them still want to serve.
Among the enticements the Army Reserve is offering is a promise of stabilization – a two-year hiatus before coming up for deployment. "It’s a promise we can make and keep."
At the same time, they are looking for medical insurance. "We can offer them TRICARE Reserve Select for $197 per month" to cover their families.
They also are looking for jobs. "That’s where the employer partnerships come into play. We just signed one with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. More than 850 employers have signed the partnership agreements.
"Employers are patriotic." She added, they also know they are getting workers who are disciplined and trained. "They also know they can save money in many cases" because their civilian job skills are the same as their military.
The Army Reserve is also offering these prior service soldiers the military schooling needed to change their MOS’s. Using military police as an example, she said recruiters have color-coded maps showing where MP units are located and police departments that have signed the partnership agreements.
Among the military specialties the Army Reserve is seeking are: plumbers, psychological operations, construction equipment operators and maintenance supervisors. "They go down range, and we need them now."
The Army Reserve is offering up to $10,000 bonuses for a first enlistment and $5,000 for career re-enlistment in 78 critically short MOSs
Some specialties are particularly affected by the high operating tempo. They include civil support, postal clerks and public affairs.
The Army Force Generation Model calls for a soldier in the National Guard or Army reserve to be available for deployment once every five years. Purser said in the case of civil affairs it is one year deployed and eight months back.
"That is a huge challenge for families and guys who own their own businesses."
Purser said, "Medical readiness [particularly dental care] remains a big challenge" for the Army Reserve and affects individual soldiers ability to deploy. Units are having to cross-level soldiers from other units to reach their full strength.
"Retention is very good. ‘We like what we’re doing.’ If and when the op tempo slows down, they are going to look for more energetic training."
Adding, "Most of them know no other way" of serving. "We have a separate challenge in retention than the active force. We have to look at employers."
Purser said, "We were a strategic force. We are an operational force now. One other challenge is we are not operationally funded."