Sustaining the All-Volunteer Army: Recruiting update from AUSA
October 9, 2008
WASHINGTON (October 7, 2008)-Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commanding general of the U.S. Army Accessions Command, provided an update on recruiting and accessions at the Army Exhibit at the National Meeting of the Association of the United States Army at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.
"It's very important to talk to you about sustaining the all-volunteer force in a time of persistent conflict," Freakley said. "We've had a phenomenal year in sustaining that force"
The first topic he discussed were the new recruiting objectives for the Active Component, Reserve and National Guard units for fiscal year 2008. While the exact figures of new recruits will be debuted on Friday at an event hosted by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Freakley told the crowd, "that we made mission." The U.S. Army is charged with enlisting 160,000 new accessions for the Active, Reserve and National Guard components and they were successful in attracting the new talent.
Freakley continued the need for collaboration across forces during this conflict. "It is a challenge to get out there and recruit against our brothers and sisters in service, but we're glad they made mission too because we need a strong joint force to get out there and do the nation's work."
Soldier retention rates are also on the rise. According to Freakley, 112% of the re-enlistment goals were met for 2008. One setback in accomplishing all of the Reserve Component would not be able to reach the endstrength goal of 205,000 Soldiers for 2008. This means that even with new accessions, the Army Reserve would have fewer than 205,000 Soldiers. Freakley attributes this to the recent demand on Reserve units which have led Soldiers to enlist into the Active Component and National Guard over the Reserves.
A growing concern for the Army is the quality of the future recruiting pool, especially youth ages 17 to 24.
"When you talk about fully qualified-and that means that they're medically and morally capable, they don't have more than two children, they have a high school diploma or a GED and you put the [Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery] on top of that-only two out of ten can come in." Freakly continues, "We are not ready for the workforce."
This greatly diminishes the qualified potential candidate pool to 6.2 million people between the ages of 17 and 24, where 66% of this group wants to pursue college. A staggering rate of childhood obesity also creates obstacles, not just for the Army, but for the nation. "Many of these people will suffer from childhood diabetes, muscular and skeletal issues," said Freakley, "and they're going to be a challenge for the workforce and a challenge for us to bring in because of their health."
Another difficulty affecting today's youth comes from a 30% high school dropout rate. "When a young person drops out of high school-that's a $1 million loss to them over their earning potential over their lifetime," said Freakley.
With the concerns facing America's youth, the Army has provided programs created to help people who otherwise would not be eligible to enlist receive assistance to bring them up to Army standards. "A lot of people want to talk to us about waivers, but we look at them as opportunities," said Freakley. "A vast majority of waivers we issue are medical, but some of the waivers are for the number of children one may have, how may traffic violations one may have, and yes, we have waivered some felons."
Freakley describes the waiver process as a ten step approval procedure that climbs the recruiter's chain of command and ends with the approval or disapproval of a brigadier general.
Waivered Soldiers, although they face a higher adverse loss rate, go on to get promoted faster, have a higher rate of re-enlistment, have a higher rate of receiving valor awards and tend to stay in the Army longer. "[Waivered Soldiers] realize that they've been given an opportunity, and they're taking advantage of that opportunity," said Freakley.
Programs to assist future Soldiers are made available through community and business support. March2Success is an online application to help build interested candidates prepare for the ASVAB test. ROTC Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS) uses business partners to offer job interviews to Soldiers returning from theater. Launched in August 2008, the Army Preparatory School at Fort Jackson, S.C., takes future Soldiers who do not have a high school diploma, prepare for the GED qualification exam. "We've had 215 Soldiers come to this and we are very proud of this program," said Freakley. He goes on to mention the empowerment in APS graduates who are able to fulfill their dreams. "They've now snatched victory from the hands out of what could have been defeat and now they're all about becoming great Soldiers."
The future of Soldier success is also dependent on the training of Soldiers. "Since this war began, we've had revolutionary changes in basic training," commented Freakley. Training before the current conflict was based on the same model used from World War II to Grenada and was no longer serving or preparing the Soldier. "We've now changed it to outcomes based training...it's about changing as a Soldier," he explained.
By following Soldier and leader development, the training in turn becomes more relevant. "It is about inspiring, leading and motivating that person to transform themselves, personally, into that Soldier that we're going to need today and in 30 years," he continued.
Advanced individual training is also evolving towards a model that will look more like the Soldier's first unit. "We try to put leaders and platoon sergeants in AIT and try to replicate the first unit of assignment, as to take the edge off of training and allow the Soldier to earn their privileges," explained Freakley. This model would also assimilate and socialize the individual to the Army way of Soldier management and give practical experience that easily translates to the field.
As Accessions Command continues to adapt to an era of persistent conflict through creating new opportunities, one mission stays the same. "It is our job to raise, equip and train the Army that would defend our Constitution and democracy," Freakley said.