By Gary Sheftick, Army News ServiceNovember 2, 2018
WASHINGTON -- With new authority over the Army's accessions enterprise, the Army Training and Doctrine Command plans to focus more heavily on regional campaigns and ads on streaming platforms and social media, rather than the traditional national television advertising.
TRADOC Commander Gen. Stephen Townsend also said he plans to fill the ranks of recruiters, move recruiting stations to better locations, and re-engineer the recruiting process from an "industrial-era model" that is no longer efficient.
Townsend announced these and other initiatives at a press conference a few weeks after taking over responsibility for all Army accessions, both officer and enlisted.
Today's youth no longer watch commercial television as much as past generations, said Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, head of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or USAREC, also at the press conference.
Instead, youth are live-streaming video on their mobile devices, and so he said the Army will run advertising on platforms such as Hulu and Netflix.
"We're going to launch a new advertising campaign," Townsend said. "Coming to TV, social media and live streaming near you soon will be new Army commercials."
Army advertising will also focus more on regions, Townsend said. Regional ads will "go to what makes those folks tick," he said. For instance in Boston, Army opportunities in science, technology and engineering will be emphasized. Different career opportunities might be emphasized in Midwest cities.
A regional recruiting pilot program will be conducted in the Chicago area. Based on those results, the pilot could extend to other cities.
The Army has always done well recruiting in "traditional strongholds" such as the South and Midwest, Townsend said. The problem is that those are not the fastest growing parts of the country, he said.
The Army has identified 22 cities that are growing population centers where recruiting needs more attention. San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Dallas, Miami, Seattle, Oklahoma City, Boston and Atlanta are among them.
The Army has traditionally recruited well in Georgia, Townsend said, but not so well in Atlanta. So, he's hoping a new research and analytical capability will give recruiters the ability to better engage youth at the ZIP code level.
USAREC will also modernize its GoArmy.com website and bring the recruiting process into the 21st century, Townsend said.
BEYOND INDUSTRIAL ERA
"Probably the most significant thing, I think, for me is we're using a 1970s-era approach for recruiting," Townsend said. "We're still using an industrial-era model that requires recruiters to talk to hundreds of applicants just to get an appointment with a handful … and derive one contract for the Army.
"We're actually changing our model."
Under the previous industrial model, recruiters had to make 12 million contacts to get 400,000 potential recruits to show up at the recruiting station, Townsend said. Then only 250,000 of those took the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and finally 85,000 enlisted.
"What we want to do is not have to talk with 12 million to get 85,000," Townsend said. He wants more focused recruiting based on research and analytics. "So at the ZIP code level, we'll be able to focus our recruiters on where their chances of success are the greatest, rather than going everywhere and canvassing everyone."
EDUCATING GEN Z
Only about 30 percent of America's youth are eligible to serve in the armed forces today due to lack of a high school diploma, obesity or misconduct, Townsend said. He added that only about 15 percent of those eligible are interested in serving.
"When you ask them why, it really gets down to ignorance about what our armed forces are and what they do for the country," Townsend said.
When a simple information brief about the Army is given, propensity jumps from 15 to 50 percent, he said. "So, it's really about just getting the word out."
Reaching teens and 20-somethings that make up "Generation Z" means getting onto the social media sites that they use, Muth said.
"We've got to educate the Z Generation," he said. "They are not answering the phone."
The reason they don't answer, he said, is because they don't recognize the number that is calling.
Every generation is guilty of "painting younger generations with a broad brush," said Maj. Gen. R. Evans Jr., commanding general of the Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, Kentucky.
Millennials and those in Generation Z do want to serve, he said. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. But they just don't know about the 150 different military occupational specialties that the Army offers, he said.
FILLING RECRUITER RANKS
"We didn't really man our team," Townsend said, explaining that USAREC has been short on recruiters across the nation.
"We didn't need to fill the recruiter ranks to man a declining Army," Townsend said of a force that was mandated to shrink a few years ago from more than 500,000 to 450,000 and even less.
"When you're on a drawdown, it's easy to man the Army," he said.
Now that Congress has authorized more Soldiers, "suddenly we're putting a demand on our recruiting force that wasn't there before," he said. "It takes a couple of years for those chickens to come home and roost."
Moving recruiting stations is something Townsend said hasn't been done in a while. He believes many of the current recruiting stations are just not in the right places to reach the younger generation.
Recruiting standards will not be lowered, said Maj. Gen. Malcolm B. Frost, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training.
"Quality matters," he said. "If you have quality Soldiers, there will be less attrition in the long run."
Quality Soldiers are a result of tougher training, Townsend said, adding that both officer and enlisted training is becoming "significantly tougher."
Infantry One-Station Unit Training went from 14 weeks to 22 weeks earlier this year. Armor and Cavalry training will expand next, Townsend said, and then combat engineer training.
The Army is re-emphasizing the basics, such as shoot, move and communicate, Frost said. He added more training time is also being spent on medical treatment, survival, force protection, discipline, grit, resilience and Soldier acculturation.
The repetition and rigor of weapons proficiency has been increased, he said. More emphasis is being placed on physical training, such as combatives and pugil stick competitions, along with other field craft, he said.