The Army has reached several milestones to modernizing recruiting, since approving the Fiscal Year 2019 Army Accessions Campaign Plan in November.
The new plan, approved by Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, detailed the 12-month plan for Army recruiting and represented the first major overhaul to recruiting practices in nearly a decade.
During FY18, the Army accessed 70,000 active duty enlisted Soldiers, the most the service has attracted since 2010; however, recent factors including an increasingly disconnected military from the civilian population in parts of the country including the Southeast, the South, and the Midwest, have made recruiting considerably more difficult.
"Most young Americans only know the Army and service from what they see on TV, in the movies or on a video game," Townsend said.
Reconnecting with the American public wasn't the only hurdle that Army recruiting faced. Other challenges include balancing the quality of potential recruits over the need to grow the force, a strong national economy and record low unemployment rates.
"We [the Army] are competing for this talent pool with colleges, trade schools, high paying jobs and our sister services," Townsend said at the Association of the U.S. Army Institute of Land Warfare Conference in Arlington, Va., Jan. 7. "This is not just an Army problem, the other services are also increasingly challenged to find the people they need to fill their ranks."
In response, the Army needed to make immediate and sweeping changes to the recruiting enterprise. Some of those changes included the realignment of the Army Marketing and Engagement Brigade under U.S. Army Recruiting Command, and the appointment of the TRADOC Commander as the senior responsible official for recruiting.
With completion of both changes, the Army created a new accessions synchronization board with TRADOC, the Army Marketing Research Group and Recruiting Command.
Since assuming the role of Accessions SRO last October, Townsend has visited recruiter stations across the nation to observe recruiter successes and note the obstacles they face daily.
During the general's visits the consistent call from USAREC leaders was one of a need for more recruiters, and a necessity to move communication with potential recruits from handing out business cards and relying on "cold calls" to two-way dialogue on virtual platforms.
These observations, and others (complied from focus groups with senior leaders and industry experts) have culminated in the current campaign plan that has yielded sweeping changes to Army recruiting.
Fast forward three months and initial data is showing promise. Today, all unfilled recruiter positions have been filled. Recruiters now have authority to communicate with potential recruits through online and social media platforms, the GoArmy.com site is under reconstruction, and the Army has released its first new commercials in nearly three years.
Additionally, in accordance with the campaign plan, the Army has increased recruiting and engagement efforts beyond historical strongholds to 22 major metropolitan areas, including Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles. These 22 cities offer the recruiting force additional opportunities to reach larger communities of recruiting age adults in areas that have experienced massive population growth over the last five years.
Though TRADOC leaders acknowledge more time is needed to determine the effectiveness of these changes, recruiting numbers for this fiscal year are up by an average of approximately three percent across the board compared to this time last year.
Local recruiting stations are reporting accessions have improved by an average of approximately 20 percent in 16 of the 22 focus cities.
"Our recruiters and senior leaders are out there telling our story," Townsend said.
The general went on to explain there is a need to change the conversation about national service.
"This is not just about service in the military, but the value and responsibility, even the obligation I think to serve your country," Townsend said.
Townsend acknowledged there is still more work to be done to improve Army recruiting and bridge the gap between those who do and do not choose to serve, but all signs point to positive results for the campaign plan.
"Many young Americans are not opposed to serving," Townsend said. "They are just unaware of the 150 different career choices available to them, the leadership training and travel available to Soldiers. They are unaware of how serving your country can mean more than collecting a paycheck. But we are out there telling our story, getting after our recruiting challenges and building the Army."