Army on track to meet its smaller 2019 recruitment goals

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After missing its recruitment goals in 2018, the Army’s top enlisted soldier said the service is on track to meet its more meager mark in 2019.

Army Sgt. Maj. Dan Dailey told members of the Association of the United States Army last week that the service is likely to hit is goal of recruiting 68,000 active duty soldiers by the end of the year.

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“We’re doing good,” Dailey said in Arlington, Va. “We went into this year and made a lot of changes to our system because we wanted to get after an attainable goal. It’s a tough reach to go to things like 70,000 or 75,000, while also maintaining the standards we want to maintain.”

The Army is also on track to meet its goal of recruiting 15,000 for the Army Reserve and 39,000 for the Army National Guard.

“That’s important because we are in an economy with a record low unemployment rate,” Dailey said. “It’s a challenging market. Everybody is looking for the same type of individual we are: 18- to 24-year-olds, good moral character, high school graduates. That’s what the workforce in America is after too.”

The Army is planning on growing its end strength and wanted to grow to the force by 4,000 each year until 2024. The service has had to scale that back to about 2,000 a year because of recruitment issues.

In 2018, the Army originally planned on recruiting 80,000 soldiers for active duty. That goal was later reduced to 76,500. The Army only ended up garnering 70,000.

Still, top Army officials defend 2018 as a good recruiting year.

“Last year we set a very high bar,” Army Secretary Mark Esper told Federal News Network last month. “Seventy thousand recruited was still the highest number we’d had in 10 years. You couple that with the fact that we had the highest retention ever in as many years as well. In many ways it was a very good year for the Army on the end strength side.”

Esper said the Army added a handful of new measures to better its recruitment methods.

“It’s everything from upgrading our storefronts where we recruit from, to hiring hundreds of new recruiters and putting them on the streets,” Esper said.

The Army also decided to increase its efforts in 22 of the largest cities across the nation; areas where the Army usually doesn’t get a lot of its recruits.

“Even though we have performed well in that area, there are cities where we have under-performed, where the population is growing the most,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, Army Training and Doctrine Command leader said last October.

Additionally, GoArmy.com, the service’s recruiting website, had not been revamped in 10 years, Townsend said. The online face of the Army is something Generation Z — the generation younger than millennials — expects to be engaging and modern.

Another outdated campaign is the Army’s television commercials. The service hasn’t put out a new commercial in two years due to contract disputes and other issues.

Those in prime recruitment age watch Hulu and Netflix and are on social media like Twitch and Instagram. That’s the Army’s next challenge, to broach the social media world in a way that is actually relevant to Gen Z. That means using memes, gifs and hashtags to get young people on board.

“The average age watching the NFL right now is 55-years-old and they can’t track a percentage of 30 and below that are actually watching the NFL. We are getting into the E-sports world right now. We attended the national convention there last week in Los Angeles,” said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, the Army’s recruiting commander.

Townsend said only about 15 percent of the 30 percent of young people qualified to serve in the military are actually interested in joining. But, when they are educated about the benefits and opportunities in the Army, the propensity rate increased to about 50 percent.

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