Army re­vamps re­cruit­ing, meets lower en­list­ment goal

The Morning Call - - NATION & WORLD - By Lolita C. Bal­dor

WASH­ING­TON — A year after fail­ing to meet its en­list­ment goal for the first time in 13 years, the U.S. Army is now on track to meet a lower 2019 tar­get after re­vamp­ing its re­cruit­ment ef­fort.

Army lead­ers tell The As­so­ci­ated Press that they ex­pect to sign up more than 68,000 ac­tive duty sol­diers for the fis­cal year that ends Sept. 30, as the largest branch of the U.S. mil­i­tary in­creas­ingly turns to so­cial me­dia and other new on­line meth­ods to find po­ten­tial re­cruits.

Last year, the Army brought in about 70,000 new ac­tive duty re­cruits, well below the 76,500 it needed amid low un­em­ploy­ment and tough com­pe­ti­tion from higher-pay­ing civil­ian com­pa­nies. Meet­ing the lower 2019 fig­ure is con­sid­ered a vic­tory for a ser­vice that has strug­gled to com­pete for young peo­ple who are less fa­mil­iar with the mil­i­tary and that was crit­i­cized last year for us­ing more bad con­duct waivers and other waivers to meet en­list­ment goals.

“We’re smooth­ing out the Army’s growth,” Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, said. “What we want to do is have mod­est growth over the next cou­ple of years. And we’re try­ing to make sure that the end strength we have is high qual­ity.”

Army lead­ers dis­pute the idea that they low­ered the goal to help meet ex­pec­ta­tions. In­stead, they said they plan to grad­u­ally grow the Army from 476,000 mem­bers last year to about 490,000 by 2024, seek­ing more high-qual­ity re­cruits who will be less likely to fail or get in­jured in early train­ing.

McConville and Army act­ing Sec­re­tary Ryan McCarthy said that it took time to in­sti­tute changes in re­cruit­ing over the past year but that the shifts have started to show promise. Al­ready re­cruiters have 13,000 more re­cruits un­der con­tract to join the ser­vice in the fis­cal year that be­gins Oct. 1, giv­ing them a jump on next year’s to­tals.

They said the re­cruit­ing goal for next year will be from 68,000 to 69,000.

After a mas­sive buildup to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanista­n, the Army in re­cent years slashed more than 50,000 sol­diers as those con­flicts scaled back.

Now, to meet mil­i­tary de­mands, the Army needs to grow again.

But in the ef­fort to en­list more sol­diers, Army lead­ers faced crit­i­cism, in­clud­ing from Congress, over the ex­panded use of waivers for re­cruits with pre­vi­ous mar­i­juana use, bad con­duct and health prob­lems.

The use of waivers trig­gered wor­ries that the ser­vice would re­peat mis­takes made dur­ing the war buildup when re­cruiters brought in more youth with his­to­ries of mis­con­duct, drugs and crime, which led to dis­ci­pline and be­hav­ior prob­lems in the units.

Now Army lead­ers say they have re­duced waivers and im­proved the qual­ity of re­cruits.

Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of Army Re­cruit­ing Com­mand, said there were 3.4% fewer waivers this year and that in­cludes the low­est per­cent­age of con­duct waivers in two decades. He said that about 12% of the re­cruits in 2019 needed a waiver to get in, and less than 9% this year needed one.

To meet the re­cruit­ing goal while lim­it­ing waivers and rais­ing stan­dards, the Army in­creased the num­ber of re­cruiters and tar­geted 22 cities that had his­tor­i­cally been chal­leng­ing ar­eas.

And, Muth said, “we have changed from the in­dus­trial age into the dig­i­tal age in how we’re re­cruit­ing.”


New Army re­cruits are sworn in be­fore a base­ball game in San Diego.

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