By C. Todd Lopez
WASHINGTON (Jan. 31, 2008) -- The Army is on track to meet its fiscal 2008 recruiting goal of 80,000 new active-duty Soldiers, said the U.S. Army Recruiting Command's top officer.
During testimony this morning before the Senate Armed Services Committee's military personnel subcommittee, Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, USAREC commander, told lawmakers his command is also working to help the Army Reserve meet its number.
"We are slightly behind established monthly objectives for the Army Reserve," he said. "But we are aggressively working with the Army leadership to develop the way ahead to achieve our Army Reserve mission for this year."
This year, the Army Reserve hopes to meet a recruiting goal of 26,500 new Soldiers.
Maj. Gen. Bostick said one of the difficulties in meeting recruiting goals is the "incredibly challenging" recruiting environment.
"Less than three out of 10 of our nation's youth are fully qualified for service in the Army due to disqualifying medical conditions, criminal records, lack of education credentials or low aptitude test scores," he said.
Likely exacerbating the issue: the war in Afghanistan and Iraq and its affect on "influencers" of potential recruits.
"Today, parents and influencers are less likely to encourage their family members and other young adults to join the military," the general said. "Propensity -- the desire to enlist in the armed forces -- is at its lowest point in two decades."
Nevertheless, last year some 170,000 Americans stepped forward to enlist in the Army, Army National Guard and Army Reserve. Additionally, the general said, Soldiers -- even those who are serving in or have served in combat -- are re-enlisting.
"Our volunteer Soldiers are re-enlisting because they believe in their nation; they believe in their flag and they believe in each other," he told senators.
The Army has transformed the recruiting command, restructuring its 41 recruiting battalions and modifying their respective areas of responsibility. The restructuring reduced the size of larger battalions, while increasing the size of some of the smaller ones. This corrected imbalances in mission responsibilities, Bostick said.
The restructuring also included the formation of two brigades: a special missions brigade to handle administrative functions, logistics and special missions for subordinate brigades; and a medical brigade to provide command and control for the five medical recruiting battalions.
In the medical community, the Army is now ahead by 122 accessions this year compared to last year, the general said, indicating that changes made to the medical recruiting structure have been positive.
"This effort will ensure we have the right levels of emphasis and expertise working this critically important mission," he said. "This remains one of our most challenging areas, but we are making significant progress."
The Army follows Department of Defense guidelines about the quality of civilians that can be recruited into the Army. For instance, at least 90 percent of recruits must have a high school diploma, 60 percent of recruits must score in the I-IIIA category or better on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery and no more than 4 percent can score category IV on the enlistment test.
In fiscal 2007, the Army fell short of the goal of ensuring that 90 percent of its recruits had a high school diploma. Instead, in fiscal 2007, only about 79 percent of recruits held diplomas. Nevertheless, the general said, the Army is recruiting quality Soldiers.
"All Soldiers in our Army are qualified to serve," he said. "And field commanders are very pleased with the men and women now serving in their formations -- some of whom are not high school diploma graduates or may have received a waiver to serve in our Army."
The general pointed out that about 90 percent of Soldiers in the Army have a high school diploma, compared to a national average of between 70 and 80 percent. In some areas, he said, that number is less than 50 percent.
Despite the difficult recruiting environment, Bostick told senators he believed Army recruiters could meet the challenge of maintaining a quality volunteer Army and asked lawmakers for their continued support.
"I am confident our recruiters will maximize the resources you have given them in order to achieve our mission," he said. " While public support for our Soldiers remains strong, we need more Americans to step forward and serve our nation -- a nation at war. I thank you for your commitment to assist Army recruiting, and ask for your continued support to encourage Americans to answer our nation's call to duty."