U.S Army Recruiting Command announced Oct. 9 that it succeeded in recruiting the 68,500 new soldiers for the active-duty mission for fiscal 2017 without sacrificing the quality of recruits to achieve success.
Succeeding in this year's mission comes in the wake of a February announcement by the Army of the largest mid-year mission increase in the history of the all-volunteer force, which saw 6,000 new future soldiers added to the 62,500 mission for FY17.
"We exceeded the mission we were given and we did it while also exceeding DoD's quality benchmarks," Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, USAREC's commanding general, said. "We recruited a high-quality force for our nation."
USAREC recruiters pulled in 68,862 future soldiers for the year for the active mission, which is far above the 62,500 original mission the Army handed the recruiters in October 2016. While the command fell short on the Army Reserve recruiting mission by a little more than a thousand recruits, recruiters achieved 92 percent of the Army Reserve mission with only 83 percent of the reserve recruiters.
"I can sense the motivation and can-do attitude across USAREC," Snow said.
The mid-year increase in mission was a result of the National Defense Authorization Act signed by then-president Barack Obama Dec. 23 that halted the downsizing of the Army and required an increase in the end strength of the Army to 1.018 million soldiers by Sept. 30. While the larger Army had its role in increasing the size of the Army by retaining quality soldiers and recruiting more officers, USAREC bore the brunt of the increase by finding and recruiting new soldiers from cities and towns across the nation and its territories around the world.
"There were many who were skeptical about our ability to achieve this increased mission while maintaining the necessary high-quality contracts to meet Department of Defense benchmarks," Snow said. "Because of [recruiters'] efforts, we exceeded the DOD benchmarks and shipped an additional 362 soldiers to active duty."
Snow said the quality of a future soldier is important to the Army. USAREC recruited only 1.9 percent of future soldiers in the lowest quality category despite that the Army-mandated percentage allowable is 4 percent.
The command achieved its mission by the use of enlistment bonuses for as much as $40,000, with an average bonus of 12,800 across 33,000 recipients to attract the best-quality candidates for service.
"We are competing for the same top talent as the private sector" Snow said. "We hire and train people on a much larger scale than anyone else, and we do it well."
To illustrate his point, Snow often mentions in his discussions about Army recruiting that people often believe the Army is a place of last resort for the undereducated or underemployed. He said this is a misperception perpetuated by television and the movie industry.
For fiscal 2017, 95.8 of all incoming soldiers recruited by the command for the active component had a high school diploma, which is nearly 13 percent higher than the national average, according to the National Council on Education Statistics. Nearly 7,000 new recruits came into the Army this year with a college degree.
While USAREC achieved its mission for FY17, fiscal 18 will bring its own challenges to the recruiting environment. The command has received an 80,000 soldier mission for this year for the active side and an Army Reserve mission of 15,600. That's tough, Snow said, in an economy that is currently boasting a 4.5 percent unemployment rate and in which only 29 percent of the population qualifies to serve in the military.
"We have a more challenging mission in FY18 and we need to have our recruiting engine firing on all cylinders to achieve this one," Snow said. "The Army needs our recruiting force prospecting and engendering commitment like never before."