More Awareness Critical to Boosting Army Recruiting

More Awareness Critical to Boosting Army Recruiting

Soldier recruiting
Photo by: U.S. Army Reserve/Sgt 1st Class Gregory Williams

The Army continues to seek talented young people to join the service amid “one of the toughest recruiting landscapes” in over three decades, the two-star in charge of Army Recruiting Command said.

“We are competing in one of the toughest recruiting landscapes I've seen in over 33 years of service,” Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis, commanding general of Recruiting Command, said Dec. 6 before members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This recruiting crisis certainly did not appear overnight and cannot be repaired overnight, but our superstar recruiters work hard every single day to recruit the best and brightest volunteers who can deploy, fight and win in the multidomain environment worldwide.”

Davis, who appeared alongside his counterparts from the other services in a hearing before the committee’s personnel subcommittee, said that he remains optimistic about the Army’s recruiting efforts even though the service faces stiff competition from civilian employers and a shrinking pool of eligible and interested potential recruits.

During fiscal year 2023, which ended Sept. 30, the Army fell short by about 10,000 people its goal of recruiting 65,000 new soldiers. Its goal for fiscal 2024 is 55,000 active-duty soldiers.

Improving awareness of the Army among service-eligible Americans is a “major” part of improving the Army’s recruiting numbers, Davis said. “One of the major things that comes up is … awareness,” he said.

In addition to service-eligible individuals missing out on recruiter access in their schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer young people have a personal connection to veterans. “When I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, my grandfather was a World War II vet. I spent a lot of time with him … [and] many of the [local] homeowners … were also World War II or Korean War vets. They were the ones that really answered my questions,” Davis said. “That's not the same today.” 

Davis pushed back against the misconception that serving in the Army could cause young people to fall behind their civilian peers. “I also thought about the same things as an 18-year-old in Wisconsin,” he said. “But what I've learned, and what I share, is … that this is certainly a life accelerator.”

Davis said he wasn’t aware of any high schools turning away Army recruiters, but he made the distinction between “access” and “meaningful access.” 

“We can get your help in terms of having our young recruiters share their story across the U.S.,” he said. Too often, access is not meaningful, and when “a young recruiter shows up to a particular school, [administrators] will say, ‘Absolutely, you're welcome here, but we'd like you to set up your recruiting table in the cafeteria at 1600 on a Friday,’ ” he said. 

Soldiers’ quality of life “is 100%” another important factor that affects recruitment and retention, Davis said. “Quality of life is important,” he said. “I have children in uniform, and whenever I visit, I take a look at the barracks situation, just like any parent would. So, I think [quality of life] is so very important. It impacts retention and continued service.”

The Army continues to make progress in its recruiting efforts, Davis said. “We're still in the first quarter of the fiscal year, and too early to estimate where we will finish … in 10 months, but I will say we’re seeing momentum, and we’ll continue to build upon it,” he said.