WASHINGTON -- The Army remains on track to meet its end-strength goal of 485,000 active-duty Soldiers by end of fiscal year 2020, despite the recent shift in recruiting operations to limit the spread of COVID-19, G-1 officials said Tuesday.
Retention is about 15% higher than anticipated at the beginning of the year, said Casey Wardynski, the assistant secretary of the Army for manpower and reserve affairs.
In addition, Army recruiters have increased their online presence, often engaging with individuals through gaming or social media platforms to complete the initial interview process, Wardynski said.
"Recruiters are operating in a virtual world," he said during a virtual town hall. "We were concerned originally, but thanks to the innovations by U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command and U.S. Army Recruiting Command … we can bring these young folk in."
Personnel interested in an Army career can complete most of their entry requirements without any in-person contact, according to a news release by USAREC in April.
During the virtual application process, individuals can determine their service eligibility, guarantee their training of choice, or identify any monetary entitlements, the release read. Once an individual's military occupational specialty is confirmed, the applicant will complete the remaining in-person medical and enlistment requirements to determine final eligibility.
Ensuring the health and safety of all personnel has led to additional screening procedures during the recruitment process, Wardynski added.
Individuals that once tested positive for COVID-19 are not precluded from military service, he said, but they must undergo additional screening before gaining entry into the force.
"We want to make sure that the people in the Army have the capacity to serve. The Army is an outdoor sport … [and] a physical enterprise," Wardynski said.
The added screening process should identify applicants with an underlying condition, or an individual that needs additional time to heal from the virus, he added. Delaying entry will help mitigate risk within the training environment.
"We want to protect our folks who are already in, and we want to protect folks who want to join us," Wardynski added.
Building the civilian workforce
Beyond recruiting Soldiers, the Department of the Army civilian workforce has continued to grow during the COVID-19 pandemic, said Peter Hosutt, the deputy director of civilian human resources.
USAJobs -- the federal government's official employment website -- has been vital to the Army's recruiting process, he said. Since March, the Army has hired more than 3,800 personnel into the civilian workforce, with an additional 500 people added to medical positions around the force.
Adjusting to the COVID-19 environment has required changes to the onboarding process, he added. New hires now complete their in-processing virtually, to ensure the health and safety of all personnel. The Civilian Human Resources Agency is also considering a remote work option for new employees.
"If you have a civilian related concern, don't hesitate to reach out to your civilian personnel advisory center," he said. "They are there to support you."
Aside from changes to the Army's hiring process, Army leaders recently added the Civilian Implementing Plan to the Army's People Strategy, Wardynski said. The plan looks to provide civilians with a clear line of progression through the realignment of select civilian career programs. A policy memo about the program is slated for release at a later date, he added.
"We are creating pathways into new career programs that make sense," he said.
Soldiers for life
As the need for logistics personnel continues to increase, the Army could expand its voluntary recall program to fill these critical positions throughout the force, Wardynski said.
Soldiers have recently been serving in "unexpected ways -- establishing a hospital in the Javits Convention Center in New York City, building temporary hospitals around the country, or moving protective equipment to sites of need," he said.
Launched back in March, the voluntary recall program offered qualified retired and separated Soldiers in select medical fields a chance to return to active-duty service. More than 27,000 Soldiers answered the call, with close to 200 former Soldiers selected to provide medical support.
"Medicine was first, and we brought in hundreds of folks … to help around the country,” he said. “You can now envision a situation in which we might need a good number of logistics [personnel] back in the force."
Soldiers for life who are interested in the voluntary recall process can inquire though the U.S. Army Human Resources Command website, he said.
Soldiers and families impacted by the recent stop-movement order may be eligible for additional financial support, Wardynski said.
Soldiers could receive restriction of movement pay -- an additional $100 per day -- if they are forced to live in temporary housing without their personal property, he said.
Additionally, Soldiers who recently arrived at a new location and need to quarantine for some time could be entitled to "isolation pay." The Army created this entitlement to defray the cost of living at the new location.
The Army's goal is to protect all Soldiers, families, civilians, and support them through this hard time, Wardynski said. The best channel for support is through the individual's chain of command, he added.
"If you have a need, inform you your chain of command -- don't suffer in silence," he said.
"Commanders have been responsive to their unit's needs. They have brought those concerns to the Department of Army when necessary. They make sure our families and our Soldiers aren't displaced and have an unusual hardship placed upon them."