In the battle to bring in talent, the Army Reserve is looking at a handful of ways to change its recruiting methods to attract the people the service wants most. But when it comes to bringing in specialized talent, like cyber or medical experts, finding the people the Army Reserve needs may be as simple as changing locations.
The Army Reserve has a special mission. It brings in people with specialties and experience in the private sector to the military. However, as the Army’s needs changed from counterterrorism to staying ahead of near-peer adversaries, so did the service’s demand for certain types of talent.
“I’ve been shamed by the private sector in how far behind we may be in certain technologies,” said Chief of the Army Reserve Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey during a Tuesday meeting with reporters in Washington. “We are really trying to get after that in terms of presence in the private sector to make sure we are retaining, and in many cases, accessing talent. They may not ever want to come into the Army or the Department of Defense on a full-time basis for financial reasons, but would love to be able to participate in some extent in this collaborative opportunity to service the nation.”
Finding that talent for the Army Reserve means placing forces in areas where people aren’t used to seeing camouflage uniforms.
“We recruit our soldiers where they live and work. So we are creating an opportunity space in California and in Massachusetts and in other places,” Luckey said. “There are other places we should put some force structure to capture talent.”
That’s especially important as the Army Reserve takes the helm in bringing in tech talent for the new Army Futures Command, which is tasked with bettering Army acquisition for future conflicts.
Luckey said the Reserve recently decided not to place two cyber nodes in Ft. Gordon, Georgia, purely because the Army wanted to find other markets of cyber talent it has yet to tap.
“I said ‘Why are you going to Ft. Gordon?’ and the response was ‘Well, that’s where the Army Cyber Command is going to be,” Luckey said. “Why would we go there? Let’s go where the Army cyber brigade is not going to be, and where everyone in the Army cyber brigade has met their mandatory service obligation and decided they can make five times as much going to California than if they stay in Augusta, Georgia. So we have moved force structure, which to me is creating opportunity.”
The military as a whole is considering a reorganization of its medical staff and the Army Reserve is considering how it can change its medical billets to better fill positions.
“What I’m looking at is taking billets that are in the medical domain that don’t have anyone in them, where I haven’t been able to fill out that force structure, and is there a place where I can optimize that force structure to capture and retain medical talent?” Luckey said.
The Army Reserve is currently looking at how it can restructure its medical backfill battalions to optimize talent recruitment and retention.
Luckey dispelled any rumors about the possibility of cutting medical staff.
“To be blunt,” he said. “It’s not like I’m trying to take a medical backfill battalion and say let’s brand it as an Army infantry battalion.”
The Army Reserve was originally created in 1908 as the Medical Reserve Corps, which was responsible for bringing in medical talent to the military.
But despite the history, Luckey said recruiting medical professionals involves changing where the Reserve’s medical units are located, much as it’s doing in the tech sector.
“I’m more interested in places to access talent in the force than the good old days,” Luckey said. “Doctors may be, in some cases, too young in their careers. In some cases they would love to serve, but financially this isn’t the right time for them to do that in their lives — they want to build their practice or put kids through college. It may create significant pressure on them in their 30s, but not so much in their 60s or their 50s or late 40s.”
Luckey said while the Reserve will be looking to new geographic areas, he also thinks the new blended retirement system (BRS) will make joining the Reserve more appealing.
“With BRS its essentially a 401k,” Luckey said. “You may show up with a 401k from some other place and you’ve got this bag of cash in your 401k. Now you’re in the Army BRS, all you’re doing is contributing more to your bag of cash. It is no longer just the defined benefit program. That will change how we look at retention and retainability because I think it’s going to give us more flexibility because there’s not an expectation that someone has to serve 20 or 25 or 30 years to have a successful career. Someone may just want to come in for five years.”