FORT KNOX, Ky. –
Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Army Recruiting Command successfully accessed enough new recruits to support the Regular Army end strength goal for fiscal 2020.
Recruiting NCOs at about 1,400 locations around the world helped 62,150 individuals enlist and begin training to become a Soldier in the U.S. Army this year.
The accessions mission is one of three pillars the Army uses to achieve its end strength goal, which was 485,000 for fiscal 2020.
“The Army achieves its end strength through a balance of a couple of things – retention of current Soldiers, recruitment and management of attrition,” said Lt. Gen. Gary Brito, the Department of the Army's deputy chief of staff, G1. “For those who choose to continue to serve, we work with them on staying in the Army and offer them many opportunities. We also bring in new Soldiers as well. We also factor in the attrition of Soldiers, Soldiers who may have enough time in service and choose to retire or some that after they do their initial enlistment, they decide to leave.”
The accessions mission can flex throughout the year, depending on the outcome of the other two Army end strength pillars, according to Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, the commanding general for USAREC.
“COVID-19 caused a change to retention and attrition that was not predicted. More people wanted to stay in the Army, which meant we needed fewer people to enlist than we initially expected,” Vereen said.
Prior to the pandemic, USAREC had exceeded every monthly recruiting goal and was seeing the highest enlistment rates since 2014. Additionally, quality was up 4 percent from the previous fiscal year.
“The strong start to the FY was crucial to our mission success this year,” Vereen said. “March through May were very challenging months, as we had to quickly adjust how we communicated with prospects, how we processed applicants, and how we shipped Future Soldiers. We needed to continue to recruit to maintain the Army’s readiness, but the priority for us all was the safety of our Soldiers, their families, and the individuals we were processing to join our team.”
On March 18, USAREC shifted to all-virtual operations across the entire command in order to limit in-person contact. From April 6-19, Training and Doctrine Command paused all shipping of Future Soldiers to basic training in order to ensure it had appropriate measures in place to protect its staff and trainees during the pandemic.
The Army worked quickly to develop policies and procedures that would allow recruiting NCOs to complete 90 percent of applicant processing virtually.
By May 2020, shipping had increased again and some recruiting stations were able to use their physical locations for processing, depending on the situation in the local area.
“We made a lot of changes in a short period of time,” Vereen said. “We have seen how valuable these changes are for our personnel, and we will continue to use them when the pandemic is over as well as work to do even more to streamline the process.”
Despite the shipping pause and the period of adjustment to improve virtual processing, USAREC was able to get the accessions mission back on track in the fourth quarter. Not only did the command successfully provide the required numbers, but it also provided a quality and diverse group of new recruits.
“Our quality marks were 2.4 percent higher than last year, demonstrating our commitment to seeking top talent for our Army,” Vereen said. “We are also continuing to focus on accessing a diverse force that is representative of the nation we serve – 47 percent of our Regular Army recruits in FY20 represented minority populations.”
The ability of recruiting NCOs to adapt quickly and find creative ways to reach America without physical events and face-to-face meetings played a significant role in the command’s success this year, according to Vereen. The NCOs immediately started hosting virtual fitness challenges and live question-and-answer sessions on social media and began conducting Army interviews on video chat platforms to continue telling the Army story in a socially distant environment.
The Army as a whole also got creative in support of the accessions mission. The first Army-wide national recruiting event, Army National Hiring Days, was held June 30-July 2 to help boost the Army’s message online. The event drew more than 30,000 leads and increased the number of interviews conducted by 18 percent over the same timeframe last year. The contacts made during the event increased the accessions in August and September 2020 and will continue to lead to new contracts for at least the next six months in fiscal 2021, according to Vereen.
“While COVID-19 certainly presented significant challenges for us, we overcame them with new ideas that are now paving the way for how we will continue to do business in the future,” Vereen said. “I am proud of what our team was able to accomplish this year. The flexibility, adaptability and creativity of our recruiting NCOs, led by outstanding company, battalion, and brigade leaders enabled our success.”