By Sgt. Sara Moore, USA
American Forces Press Service
Despite a challenging recruiting environment, all four branches of the military have met with significant recruiting success in the past year and are on target to continue that success, the services' recruiting chiefs told a Congressional committee yesterday.
In fiscal 2007, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps all exceeded their active-duty enlisted recruiting goals, and only the Air Force fell slightly short of its goal on the reserve-component side, the officers in charge of recruitment for the four services said at a hearing of the personnel subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The Army's success came after two years of reinforcing the recruiting command with additional manpower, resources and incentives to bring up numbers that lagged in 2005, Army Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, said in prepared remarks to the committee. He noted that this success came at a time of persistent combat.
In fiscal 2007, the active-duty Army met Defense Department goals for the percentage of recruits scoring high on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test, but fell short of the goal of 90 percent of recruits holding a high school diploma, Bostick said. Only 79 percent of active-duty recruits for 2007 had high school diplomas.
Acknowledging this shortage and an increase in the number of waivers granted for recruits with convictions, Bostick said commanders in the field are pleased with the quality of the soldiers serving in their units. He emphasized that all applications for waivers are reviewed thoroughly, and those for individuals with felony convictions are reviewed by 10 different people and must be approved at the general officer level.
"The Army is reviewing the long-term impact of the less number of high school diploma graduates (and) the increased waivers on the effectiveness of an Army at war," Bostick said in his testimony. "But in talking to soldiers and drill sergeants and our Army leaders, there's a common theme that the quality and the skills of our initial entry training graduates remains high."
Fiscal 2007 marked the ninth consecutive year the Navy achieved its overall active-component mission, while exceeding Defense Department recruit quality standards, Navy Rear Adm. Joseph F. Kilkenny, commander of Navy Recruiting Command, said at the hearing. The Navy's top recruiting priority in 2007 was naval special warfare and special operations, programs that require exceptionally bright and physically fit recruits, he said.
To boost recruitment for these elite communities, the Navy hired former naval special warfare and special operations personnel to assist in selecting, testing and mentoring new recruits, Kilkenny said. This effort, coupled with $40,000 enlistment bonuses, improved recruiting in these communities and increased physical screening test pass rates for recruits at boot camp from 28 percent to 78 percent.
The Navy met with mixed success in officer recruiting in 2007, Kilkenny said. Nineteen of the 23 officer communities met their goals, but the chaplain corps, chaplain student program, naval reactor engineers and programs for students in the medical profession all missed goal. As a result, the Navy has increased its efforts in officer recruiting and is making medical officer recruiting its number one goal for fiscal 2008, he said.
The Air Force's success in 2007 marked its eighth consecutive year and 77th consecutive month of meeting enlisted recruiting goals, Air Force Brig. Gen. Suzanne M. Vautrinot, commander of Air Force Recruiting Service, said in prepared remarks to the committee. The quality of Air Force recruits remains above DoD standards, with 79 percent scoring above the 50th percentile on the ASVAB test and 91 percent entering without needing a waiver for moral, drug or criminal issues, she said in her testimony.
Vautrinot noted that the Air Force's critical warfighting career fields, such as pararescue and linguist, have consistently been filled, thanks largely to enlistment bonuses provided by Congress. Officer recruitment programs, with the exception of the medical corps, have met with continued success, as well, she said.
Last year, the Air Force recruited just fewer than half of its target for fully qualified health care personnel. To address this shortfall, the Air Force is increasing its health professions scholarships and realigning recruiters to major medical education centers, Vautrinot said.
The Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard both face significant recruiting challenges because of the impact of the Base Realignment and Closure initiatives, which will bring about personnel reductions and mission changes, Vautrinot said. However, in both the reserve and active-duty components, the Air Force relies on the examples of its current members and high-quality recruiters to send a positive message and boost recruitment, she said.
"The Air Force attracts recruits with a simple but powerful message: We're a well-trained, highly technical force, a global team defending the nation in the war on terrorism while simultaneously executing humanitarian missions around the globe," she said.
The Marine Corps' recruiting success in 2007 cut across the active and reserve components, including officers, Marine Brig. Gen. Richard T. Tryon, commander of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, said in his prepared remarks. The recruiting mission was increased as part of an effort to grow the overall force, he said, and the recruiting command stayed on track to build an active component with an end strength of 202,000.
In his testimony, Tryon attributed the recruiting success to a quality recruiting force that is screened, well-trained, and properly resourced. He noted that every Marine assigned to recruiting duty is evaluated thoroughly before attending a seven-week training course, and they continue to receive training while on recruiter duty.
Marine recruiters find they must invest considerable time with parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and other "influencers" to attract men and women qualified to serve, Tryon said. Recruiters mostly rely on the Marine Corps values and its reputation as an elite force for enticing people to serve, Tryon said.
All four leaders agreed that they are facing an extremely challenging recruiting environment today. The propensity among young people to serve is the lowest it's ever been, and key influencers, like parents and teachers, are not always supportive of military service. Also, the military is competing with the private sector for talented young people, many of whom see a college degree and high-paying job as the path to success.
Despite these challenges, all the leaders expressed optimism about meeting recruiting goals for fiscal 2008. All the services are adding new initiatives this year to better take advantage of technology and education programs to boost recruiting efforts, the leaders said.