The state of the Army recruiting market and closing gaps

After the branch fell short 25% of its recruitment goal, there’s new efforts to meet the challenges to close gaps in knowledge, identity and trust. There are also enlistment bonuses being offered by the Army for active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard.
Published: Oct. 27, 2022 at 8:16 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - It’s a workers’ job market for many industries nationwide, even for the U.S. Armed Forces. The U.S. Army says the military is facing the most challenging recruitment environment since 1973. And last fiscal year, the branch fell short 25% of its recruitment goal.

This is a look at Army Basic Combat Training, the first steps of about 10 weeks to become a Soldier. A place that builds character, competence and commitment. Shaping Soldiers to protect the security of our nation at home and abroad, like Pvt. Jasiahs Jennings who enlisted in April of this year.

“My message to young people is to take the risk,” Pvt. Jennings said.

He enlisted to see the world, and for education benefits. Soon he’s heading to his first permanent station.

“If you’re thinking about it – I say talk to a recruiter.”

It’s a step 22-year-old Brandon McAlister plans to also take after doing three semesters in school.

“I thought, okay either I could work at a plant for the rest of my life, I can pursue a trade which is still a good option – or I could join the military,” he said.

And for the last year he’s trained with Upstate recruiters to be fit to enter.

“I think what I would say is you miss the shots that you never take,” McAlister said.

And an Army memorandum on the state of the recruiting marker shows less people are taking them.

“Finding the best qualified people to fill that force is critical,” said Lt. Col. Brian Meister, Columbia Recruiting Battalion commander.

He leads recruitment operations in South Carolina, western North Carolina and Augusta, Georgia.

“(A recruiters) job is strategically important because they’re filling the ranks of the army that really defines the strength of the nation,” he said.

Lt. Col. Meister says his recruitment numbers are similar to the U.S. Army Recruiting Command as a whole, with the state of the recruitment market showing, only 23% of those age 17-to-24 are fully qualified to serve. There’s also gaps in knowledge, identity and trust. A memorandum entitled A Call to Service to Overcome Recruiting and Retention challenges states a trust gap means “Younger Americans are losing trust and confidence in many American institutions, including the military.”

Moreover, there’s an identity gap meaning, “Potential recruits cannot see themselves in the Army, often due to assumptions about Army life and culture.”

This summer, the Army instituted near-term and far-term initiatives to increase recruiting and retention.

“There’s certainly a knowledge gap quite frankly, students don’t see themselves in the Army or don’t understand the benefits that it can provide to them,” said Lt. Col. Meister.

In response, anyone willing to go to basic training within 30 days of enlistment can earn up to $40,000. There’s also a new Future Soldier Preparatory Course (FSPC) to increase a recruits physical or academic standards to initially enter.

“We’re certainly not looking to lower our standards to get people into the military, but we have looked at different options to expand the pool of people that are available to enlist, and to provide certain individuals that previously weren’t eligible to enlist the opportunity to join the Army,” Lt. Col. Meister said.

There’s also an unprecedented number of enlistment bonuses being offered by the Army for active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard. Anyone 18 to 35 is eligible to enlist, anyone over 35 may be able enlist with a waiver.