Army considering major changes for recruiting

By Gary SheftickOctober 24, 2014

Considereing Changes to Recruiting
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G-1 at Recruiting Press Conference
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WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct 23, 2014) -- The U.S. Army Recruiting Command is considering a number of dramatic changes to help deal with what it perceives as an extremely challenging recruiting environment in coming years.

Virtual recruiting is already being tried in remote areas where no recruiting stations are located, and the Army is using personality screening to augment aptitude testing for some candidates, said Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command.

Batschelet outlined other possible changes to recruiting policy and doctrine at a press conference last week, during the Association of the U.S. Army's Annual Meeting and Exposition.

The Tailored Adaptive Personality Assessment System, or TAPAS, is being administered at Military Entrance Processing Stations to some candidates. This "non-cognitive" screening can identify whether the values and characteristics of potential recruits are compatible with the values of the Army, Batschelet said.

Over the past year, TAPAS has been used to "screen out" some candidates who might not have strong personal characteristics, but Batschelet said it could also be used to "screen in" candidates who are adaptive, resilient and have dedication, but perhaps scored only marginally on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, known as the ASVAB.

"We think there is a great potential there to expand the use of that non-cognitive screening," Batschelet said.

"You may find someone who is less cognitive or academically skilled, but has strong personal characteristics, who may in the long term be a much more adaptive Soldier and better performing one."

The Army is looking at conducting a pilot longitudinal study on expanding the use of TAPAS next year, Batschelet said.

The Army is also looking at other ways to screen for resilience and adaptability, said Lt. Gen. James C. McConville, the Army's G-1.

"There are certain folks that tend to handle stress better," McConville said, "and what we have to do is be able to better capture that."

"It's not necessarily SAT scores, it's not necessarily GPAs, it's people who have grit. And so how do you define grit -- how do you measure that?"

He said the Army knows it needs resilient Soldiers for the future to be able to handle uncertainty in a complex world.

This past year the Army met its recruiting goals for the active force and "quality is at some of the highest levels we've seen," Batschelet said, but he has concerns about the future.

"We are seeing some societal issues emerge" he said, such as obesity in youth. With physical, cognitive and other Army requirements, a dwindling percentage of American youth are eligible to serve in the military, he explained. And of those who end up serving, he said 40 percent never finish their first term.

Efforts must be made in the future to reduce first-term attrition, Batschelet said. About 15 percent of enlistees don't make it through initial-entry training, and about another 25 percent leave during their first permanent duty assignment in the operational Army, he said.

That's a reason to look for resilience and "stick-to-it-ness" in recruits, he explained.

"The way we define quality today is pretty narrow -- that high school diploma and results on an ASVAB test," Batschelet said. "Maybe that needs to be looked at. Maybe there are other ways to define quality to get after those individual characteristics we're looking at for Soldiers of 2025."

Lateral accessions are something the Army is looking at possibly expanding in the future, Batschelet said. The Army has already been laterally recruiting some doctors and chaplains and nurses who have been successful in their professions, he said.

"We've never extended it more broadly beyond those specialty or professional areas," he said. "So we're taking a look at how we might be able to apply some of the lessons learned and concepts we use in bringing in those professionals more broadly to the enlisted force."

"Nothing has been decided yet," he stressed, "but it looks like there's some merit to doing that."

The Army Research Institute is looking at ways to better identify resilience and other desirable traits in recruit candidates, McConville said. The RAND Corporation is also looking at different ways to recruit and screen enlistees.

A Recruiting 2020 Forum was held last month with senior Army leaders and researchers from RAND and elsewhere meeting in Arlington, Virginia, for a day and a half. They explored a number of innovative ideas, Batschelet said, such as using "biomarkers" to help determine what occupational specialties recruits would best be suited to undertake.

Another idea would stop recruiters from promising enlistees specific military occupational specialties. Instead, the Army would assess how well new Soldiers perform during the initial weeks of basic combat training and then "steer them" toward an appropriate MOS.

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