Revamped Army Recruiting System Helps Boost Active-Duty Enlistments
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty said recruiting system tweaks made over the summer are working and will help the Army enlist the 80,000 new active duty soldiers it needs during fiscal 2006.
"We've added active, Reserve and Guard recruiters," said Hilferty, a personnel specialist on the Army Staff. The Army also made changes to its enlistment incentive programs, he said, and changed its recruitment ad campaigns to better target parents and other influencers of today's youth.
Following a dismal winter and spring, the summer was fruitful for Army recruiters, Hilferty said, noting that that success has continued into the fall. The Army signed up more than 8,700 active duty recruits in September, making 104 percent of that month's goal, according to Defense Department statistics released Oct. 11.
The Army recruited more than 73,000 active duty enlisted soldiers for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. That amounted to 92 percent of the Army's goal of 80,000 recruits for fiscal 2005.
The Navy and Marine Corps achieved 100 percent of their active duty enlisted recruiting goals for fiscal 2005, while the Air Force notched 102 percent. In total, the services signed up 163,259 new active-duty enlisted members between Oct. 1, 2004, and Sept. 30, 2005.
The Army National Guard and Army Reserve didn't meet their recruiting goals for fiscal 2005, finishing the year with 80 and 84 percent of their quotas, respectively. The Naval Reserve and Air National Guard missed their quotas as well, finishing with 88 and 86 percent of their fiscal 2005 recruiting goals.
However, the Marine Corps Reserve achieved 102 percent of its recruiting quota, while the Air Force Reserve also did well, achieving 113 percent of its goal.
And the Army, Marine Corps and Air Force all exceeded their annual retention goals for fiscal 2005, according to DoD statistics. The Navy achieved a 91 percent retention rate for its mid-career sailors.
Hilferty acknowledged there's a tight recruiting market, partly because parents are concerned about their children enlisting and then serving in war zones. And "the economy is very bad for us, because it's so good," he pointed out, noting that young people have other choices for employment other than military service.
The Army tells civilian communities about the merits of military service through its "Call-to-Duty" campaign that has soldiers explaining to potential recruits and parents "what it means to be a soldier," Hilferty said.
Hilferty said the Special Recruiter Assistance Program also helps the Army tell its story to potential recruits. Any soldier who is a veteran of Afghanistan or Iraq may request a two-week temporary duty assignment to go back to their hometown, he explained, to work with local recruiters and talk to people about their experiences.
"We get the news, the truth, out to local people, unfiltered by possibly biased media," Hilferty noted.
In competition with military recruiters, business recruiters are dangling inducements once usually affiliated with the military, such as money for education, he said.
"If you join many corporations now," Hilferty said, "they will help pay for college." Therefore, it's imperative that military recruiting continues, "to adapt as the environment changes," he said.
The Army's recruiting game plan is evolving, Hilferty said, pointing to a request to Congress to increase the ceiling of initial enlistment bonuses from up to $20,000 to $40,000.
The Army also is seeking congressional authority to offer referral bonuses amounting to $1,000 to $2,500 for soldiers who deliver qualified recruits, with money paid upon a recruit's successful graduation from service school. There's also talk about establishing an Army home ownership program, he noted, to help soldiers with paying housing mortgages.
Factoring in resources like more recruiters and increased bonus money, Hilferty said, Army planners are "relatively confident" of meeting the goal of signing up 80,000 recruits for fiscal 2006.
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