McConville Confident in Army’s Recruiting Efforts

McConville Confident in Army’s Recruiting Efforts

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville meets with soldiers deployed to Poland.
Photo by: U.S. Army/Master Sgt. Joseph Moore

As he prepares to complete his tenure as Army chief of staff, Gen. James McConville is worried about the tough recruiting environment but optimistic that the service is doing the right things to get the best people.

“I’ll be straight up, recruiting is challenging right now,” McConville said July 18 during an Association of the U.S. Army Noon Report webinar where he discussed a variety of topics with retired Gen. Bob Brown, AUSA president and CEO.

Acknowledging the difficulties of attracting young people to Army service, McConville said, “Here’s what I know—there are a lot of young men and women that want to serve that cannot meet the standards,” and the Army is helping them get up to speed.

McConville highlighted the success of the Future Soldier Preparatory Course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, and Fort Moore, Georgia. Launched a year ago at Fort Jackson, the course’s academic and physical fitness tracks have helped enlistees improve their Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or fitness scores so they qualify to become soldiers.

While he’s adamant about not lowering those standards, McConville said he believes the Army should look beyond what might appear to be an individual’s fatal flaw and give them a chance to “see how they do, and if they have the passion and commitment to serve, let’s let them serve.”

“You can serve, but we’re going to help you meet the standards,” McConville said. As many as 10,000 young people have attended the Future Soldier Preparatory Course, he said, and “95% have been successful, and not just successful, they’re going on to initial military training and becoming the junior leaders and actually excelling as they go.”

McConville became the 40th Army chief of staff on Aug. 9, 2019, and is slated to retire in early August. Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George has been nominated to succeed him. George must be confirmed by the Senate.

McConville noted that veterans have a lot to give, including on the front lines of the recruiting battle. “When I talk to Soldiers for Life, I ask them to do two things—inspire and hire. And, if you only do one, inspire other young men and women to serve,” he said. When veterans share their stories of service with young people, he said, it helps them and their influencers understand that being a soldier is one of the most important things they’ll ever do.

After 42 years of service, McConville said, the quality of leadership among general officers, NCOs, warrant officers and soldiers across the Army is “the best that we’ve ever had.”

He also spoke of the challenges ahead on a multidomain battlefield and pointed to the fighting in Ukraine as an example of how war plays out on land.

While every member of the joint force is important when the force is being contested in every domain, “at the end of the day … when you think about where decisive actions happen, they usually happen on the land,” McConville said.

The Army will be contested in every domain, and soldiers are “going to have to be able to operate and compete in all these domains,” he said, explaining that the Army’s modernization is “really transformation.”

“It’s not just new weapons systems, it’s new doctrine, it’s new organizations like the multidomain task force,” McConville said of one of the service’s newest organizations in the European and Indo-Pacific theaters.

“We're not fighting the last fight better, we're trying to make sure that we can win the next fight,” McConville said.