SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Recruiting leaders from all U.S. military services gathered here to collaborate on strategies and discuss policies from Sept. 19-21, 2023.
As fiscal year 2024 loomed on the horizon, top recruiting leadership from the U.S. Air and Space Forces, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and National Guard agreed during the annual Joint Recruiting Commanders Conference that the post-pandemic recruiting climate requires a new approach to identifying quality candidates and welcoming them into service. Sometimes this includes joint DoD policy updates.
Brig Gen Christopher Amrhein, commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service highlighted the importance of this conference. “Having all of the joint recruiting leadership together with OSD leadership is key to finding common solutions to the joint force for identifying and attracting the best talent for our future total joint force,” Amrhein said.
The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense Personnel & Readiness Directorate sent representatives to provided key accession policy updates to the Services top recruiting leadership.
“I think what we are most proud and excited about coming out of FY23 is all the progress we have made, in partnership with the Recruiting Commands and U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command in identifying and updating policies and processes that can have an immediate impact on recruiting,” Mr. Lin St. Clair II, Deputy Director of Accession Policy said.
“The establishment of the Medical Accessions Records Pilot, for example, has led to over 1,200 applicants being able to enlist in FY23 who otherwise would have been initially disqualified. Additionally, working with USMEPCOM, we have reestablished the ability for applicants to bring those most important to them to witness the oath of enlistment. This allows for the community to witness, and be part of, a major milestone in an applicant’s journey from civilian to servicemember.”
Additionally, the Air Force streamlined naturalization during Basic Military Training, reopened college repayment programs, welcomed the community back on bases across the country and built a medical contract program to relieve weight from the medical administration and waiver process.
The services agreed that since the March 2022 launch of Military Health System Genesis, the military’s electronic health record, medical admin work has seen an impact on timelines for processing. While the senior leaders all agree that suggested improvements have been identified and flagged to higher headquarters, they continue to look at all avenues of process improvements.
USMEPCOM, the unit responsible for physicals and determining initial medical qualification, announced the development of artificial intelligence to address the influx of medical waivers as well. U.S. Army Col. Megan Stallings, commander of MEPCOM, said her team will use artificial intelligence to help prescreen applicants and identify specific markers in the extensive health records that doctors can focus on. According to Stallings, machine learning will continue to improve the program, but that in just one week after launch, her team has seen success.
The services agreed that the other major challenge they face is a decrease in public understanding of the military’s mission. Each service was able to provide key updates to their respective department on recruiting and marketing efforts that address the gap in military service understanding.
The U.S. Coast Guard Recruiting commander, Capt. Benjamin Keffer argued the U.S. Coast Guard mission, specifically its environmental work, deeply aligns with Gen Z’s values. However, he said because few Americans understand what the Coast Guard does, his command faces a recruiting challenge.
“It’s extremely important for services to meet annually, said the commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command Maj Gen Johnny Davis. “As our country experiences an overwhelming competition for talent, it’s more important than ever for our military recruiting teams to meet, share knowledge, and shape the future of recruiting. Together we can address challenges that have universal impacts on all recruiters.”
“The JRCC was valuable to the Marines,” said U.S. Marine Corps Recruiting Commander Maj Gen William Bowers. “We got to share our assessment of the dynamic recruiting landscape with our sister services during a period of unprecedented challenges.”
Consensus around the room was that every service understands the recruiting challenges they face, but, as Amrhein concluded, they are dedicated to collaboration to protect and defend the United States by selecting quality applicants into service.
The U.S. Navy Recruiting Command leadership contends the recruiting environment remains an extremely challenging one. “Having service partners to explore and expand the recruiting space makes the journey and the effort easier. ‘if you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go together,’” said U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Lex Walker, Commander for Navy Recruiting Command. “Although we are in competition with one another for the same talent, it is a friendly competition born of mutual respect and a common goal, which is to bring people into service, regardless of the Service chosen. Afterall, rising tide lifts all boats.”