Army Reclaims Some Recruiting Momentum

Army Reclaims Some Recruiting Momentum

New soldiers take the oath of enlistment.
Photo by: U.S. Army/Sgt. Jared Simmons

The Army will fall short of its recruiting goal again this year, but leaders are encouraged by the success of several new recruiting initiatives and improvements made within the recruiting force.

While a flurry of programs and incentives have built some positive momentum in the all-out effort to boost recruiting, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said that the recruiting challenge continues to be “the only real significant dark cloud on the Army’s horizon.”

The Army missed its goal of recruiting 60,000 new soldiers last year by about 15,000, citing a tough recruiting environment brought on by, among other things, the COVID-19 pandemic, which kept recruiters from vital in-person meetings with high schoolers and their influencers for almost two years.

Education came to a standstill, too, and the obesity, substance abuse and behavioral issues that had disqualified many young people from service before the pandemic only intensified. The number of young people willing to serve also dropped to record low levels, leaders said.

Despite the challenge, the recruiting goal for the current fiscal year was raised to 65,000, an ambitious mark that “I don’t think we’re going to meet,” Wormuth said June 13 during a discussion with reporters.

She declined to predict what this year’s shortfall will be, but said things look brighter now than they did at the same time last year and may improve even more over the summer when recruiting tends to surge.

“On the positive side, we are doing better now in June of 2023 than we did in June of 2022,” she said, placing much of the credit for the improved outlook on the success of the Future Soldier Preparatory Course, a program that gives low-scoring enlistees a chance to improve their eligibility to attend basic training with academic and fitness courses.

Other recruiting initiatives include promotion and bonus incentives for soldiers who refer recruits who make it through basic training, and recruits are offered incentives such as quick-ship bonuses, duty station of choice and bonuses for critical MOSs. The Army also overhauled its branding and marketing strategy, bringing back the popular “Be All You Can Be” slogan used by the Army for two decades.

Wormuth also touted the work of Army Recruiting Command and its top officer, Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis, who has overseen a reworking of how recruiters are trained.

She explained that some recruiters who were “not producing the way that we’d like them to,” are receiving extra training and being held accountable, which she thinks is “starting to pay off” with increased productivity.

“The increase in recruiter productivity, which is a newer phenomenon, is a very good sign, so I think we will enter [the] year in a statistically significantly better way than we did last year, even if we don't make 65,000,” Wormuth said.