LT. COL. PAYTON: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. I’m Lieutenant Colonel Joey Payton, Army spokesperson and your moderator for today's media round table. Thank you all for joining us today. The purpose of today's event is to provide an update about the Army's efforts to address our recruiting challenges while maintaining quality over quantity. On the line we have leaders from Headquarters Department of the Army, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, Training and Doctrine Command, Recruiting Command and the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Jackson. We will have an opening statement by Lieutenant General Gervais and afterward we will open the line for questioning for about 45 minutes. We ask that when you're called upon please, restate your name and organizational affiliation before you ask your question. And since there's a good bit of you on the line, we're asking that you ask one question at a time. If time permits, then we'll circle back for following questions. Please mute your phones when you are not speaking to ensure we can all hear the questions and responses clearly. All statements are on the record and attributable to the speakers.
At this time, I'd like to turn it over to Lt. Gen. Maria Gervais. Ma'am, the floor is yours.
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: Good afternoon. Can you guys hear me okay?
(Roger). Excellent. Thank you. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, I'm Lieutenant General Maria Gervais. I'm the Deputy Commanding General for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, and I like to thank you for joining us here today. And really, really appreciate the fact that you joined us on such short notice so that we could talk about our Future Soldier Preparatory course initiative.
Now, as many of you have read in the July 20th Memo from the Secretary of the Army and also the Chief of Staff of the Army, and as you’ve seen the stories in the media recently America's military faces the most challenging recruiting environment since the all-volunteer force was established in 1973. This is driven in part by the post COVID-19 labor market, the intense competition with the private sector and also a declining number of young Americans interested in uniform services.
The Army is dependent on our nation's sons and daughters to volunteer to serve. However, the percentage of young Americans meeting Army enlistment standards has decreased markedly over the past four decades. Currently only 23% of 17 to 24-year-old Americans are fully qualified to serve. And the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have created additional barriers to enlistment for many. Pandemic driven initiatives like virtual learning have further limited access to the recruiting population in high schools and has exacerbated a decline in academic and physical fitness levels. Preliminary data suggests remote schooling may have lowered overall armed services vocational aptitude battery, or what we call the ASVAB, scores by as much as 9%. These conditions have negatively affected the Army's ability to meet its recruiting targets. Over the past few years’ student test scores have dropped and childhood obesity has increased.
The Army is making every effort to overcome these challenges, but we will not overcome them overnight. There are three things I want to make clear. Our first principles are number one, the Army will not sacrifice quality for quantity; number two, we will not lower our standards; number three, we will invest in America's young people so they can meet our standards because we believe that the Army is unparalleled in its ability to unlock a person's full potential.
And as part of that investment in America's youth to help those who have the desire and drive to enlist but may not currently meet the standards the Army is starting a pilot program at Fort Jackson, focused on academic and fitness instruction. The Future Soldier Preparatory Course will help prospective soldiers overcome barriers to service. The Future Soldier Preparatory Course will invest in individuals so they can overcome obstacles and serve our nation. The Course will allow recruits who meet all other qualification for enlistment, a path to service. The young men and women who will participate in this pilot have the desire to improve themselves and want to honorably serve their country. The pilot, which will start in August, will provide focused academic and fitness instruction to help the trainees meet Army standards before they attend basic combat training,
The prep course will provide educational training for those who need help improving their ASVAB scores, and the fitness training for those who are up to 6% over the authorized accessions body fat composition standards. Trainees in both tracks are projected to remain in the preparatory course for up to 90 days with opportunities every three weeks to leave the program and ship to basic training if they meet or exceed the Army's desired accession standards.
Now, the Army is not lowering standards but instead increasing the opportunity to serve without sacrificing the quality needed across the force. Through the Future Soldier Preparatory Course, the Army will provide focused academic and fitness instructions for those who have the desire and ability to achieve the Army standard to increase the quality of individuals entering basic training. I am confident given the right instruction and professional support these trainees will be able to perform successfully and meet the standards expected of every soldier. Joining me here today is Mr. Lin St. Clair, who is the Assistant Deputy for Accessions and Retention in our ASA M&RA. He can answer questions on policy. Also, joined by Major General Kevin Vereen, our commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, who will answer questions on recruiting and accession. And I'm also joined here today by Brigadier General Pat Michaelis. He is the commanding general of the U.S. Army Training Center at Fort Jackson, and he is the commander on the ground who will be executing the Future Soldier Preparatory Course.
Now ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much again for joining us on such short notice, and we look forward to your questions. Thank you.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Thank you, ma'am. And for everyone that was coming a little bit later, I just want to remind the team to please mute your mics when you're not speaking so that we can hear the questions and answers clearly and just practice good mute discipline. As Lieutenant General Gervais stated, we have Mr. St. Clair who can answer policy questions, Major General Vereen who can answer recruiting questions and Brigadier General Michaelis who can answer questions about the Future Soldier Preparatory Course. So at this time, the line is open for questions. So what I'm going to do is I'm going to ask the questions in order of those who RSVP’d. We are tracking those who expressed interest in asking questions. So, the first person is Luis, can you please again for the team could you please state your name and your organization affiliation and ask your question? Luis, your turn.
LUIS MARTINEZ: Hi, it's Luis Martinez with ABC News. Can you hear me?
LT. COL. PAYTON: We got you clear.
LUIS MARTINEZ: Okay, great. Hi, thanks for doing this. Just two quick questions if I may. This new program that you have, you’re calling it a pilot. Does that mean that, I mean, how long is it going to go on for? I think it lasts, Is it 90 days or something like that? And what are some of the real differences from other programs like this that you've done in the past? And is the goal here to essentially bring down a potential huge deficit that you may have in the coming year? And then the other question I have is, I think it was a year and a half ago that Army Recruiting changed its focus for recruiting away from combat elements towards Gen Z. Do you think that that shift may have had an impact on the recruiting deficit that you're seeing in this season? Thank you.
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: This is Lieutenant General Gervais. I will take this in part because really I think there was five questions in the two questions that were offered. First of all, this is being called a pilot, yes. The actual preparatory course is 90 days in duration both for the academic and the fitness side of this. However, this pilot will go into [fiscal year] FY23. And as we start this pilot and we validate some of the outcomes we are achieving, that will inform whether it becomes permanent in the future and even if we will expand it into other locations. So it's a pilot that will start in August and go into FY23 and then based on the outcomes that we will observe then we will make the future decision for the Army whether we expand it and whether it becomes something permanent.
Okay, I think the second part of your question was, has the Army done something similar in the past and how is this different as take a look at it. And I think, you know, when you look at it, if you go back to the 2008 and 2010-time frame, the Army has actually ran a preparatory school at the very location, at Fort Jackson, that provided academic support for recruits to earn their general education diploma so they could qualify for enlistment. The program had a 95% graduation rate resulting in more than 2,700 new recruits that joined our ranks. We've also had other programs previous in our history. For example, from 2004 to 2007, we had a very similar program known as the Assessment of Recruit Motivation and Strength which was used to identify enlistees who despite exceeding the accessions body fat composition standards were fit and became productive members of the Army enlisted force. This actual initiative that we had back in 2004 to 2007 was actually validated in a 2011 RAND study. So, we've done something similar in the past, and we're really looking at using this now because of some of the trends that we see - societal trends and also some of the post pandemic trends - in terms of increase in obesity and also a 9% decrease in what we've seen in scores on the ASVAB. So I'll pause there.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Thank you, ma'am. And I think we have next on the line Steve Beynon. Your turn.
STEVE BEYNON: Hey, uh....
LUIS MARTINEZ: …..question about Gen Z recruiting focus. That was the very one, about the recruiting campaign on Gen Z as opposed to the combat and did that have an impact on your recruiting cycle this year?
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: I would ask Major General Vereen, are you up from Recruiting Command?
MAJ. GEN. VEREEN: Hey, this is Major General Vereen, the commanding general for U.S. Army Recruiting. So, first of all, thank you all for joining us today. So, I want to quickly answer the question that came up with regards to shift in recruiting approximately two years ago. So our Army essentially really never shifted majorly to focus on Generation Z and some of the other soft skills that the Army is looking for. We really wanted to balance our recruiting efforts, and we do that every year. As you look across our country it's really about informing young kids about the opportunities to serve in the Army and what's available for them. We have over 150 MOSs or skills that we look for across the Army and really it's about precision. There are some kids who want to join to do the combat arms portion of the Army and there are some who want to join to do some of the other unique skills, niche skills that we're looking for. So the campaign was really, is really to balance the Army, to keep our Army in balance but also it's about making sure that our young youth understand all that the Army can offer them in some cases that they just don't know about. So hopefully I answered that question.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Thank you, sir, and now, Steve, your turn.
STEVE BEYNON: Hey, thanks a lot. Thank you for putting this on. I’m kind of curious, how does this work functionally? Does someone enlist and then go to I guess effectively what is a workout camp to lose that 6% body fat or this academic camp to raise their ASVAB? So, they enlist first, they are getting paid by the Army and if they still fail after the three months can they stay in the camp or leave? I guess get discharged by the Army at that point? And does this allow someone who didn’t do good on the ASVAB and is overweight to attend both of these courses or can you only fail at one of those standards?
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Hey, ma’am, this is Pat Michaelis. I can answer this if you want me to.
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: Yes, go ahead, Pat. And if USAREC needs to add in anything on the actual recruitment piece they can jump in if you don't cover it.
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Thanks, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you very much. My name is Brigadier General Patrick Michaelis. I’m the commanding general here at Fort Jackson at the Army Training Center. On June 17th Fort Jackson was given the warning order to create a capability to invest in America's youth so they can meet our standards. This has matriculated over the last month into what's now known as what you're being briefed on here as the Future Soldier Prep Course, established here on Fort Jackson in an initial operating or an IOC..
Steve, can you still hear me?
STEVE BEYNON: Yeah, I didn't hear anything but terrible feedback.
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: So, we established it here at Fort Jackson, the initial operating capability and we're ready to receive. So as a bit of a background, I've got four years working in the accession side of the Army, at one point commanding a recruiting brigade focused on the southeast United States. And when I was in command a narrative used to be very frequently that we didn't have a problem people wanting to be in the Army, the problem was the right people wanting to be in the Army. And the translation there is we're waiting for society to show up to our recruiting stations that met all the standards. But I think this program recognizes that there's a journey to meet those standards. Societal trends, as Lieutenant General Gervais laid out, have challenged that journey. We as an Army today, underneath the direction of the Secretary of the Army and the Chief, recognize today's youth deserve an opportunity to join this great organization if they can meet that standard. So we're going to invest in them. So two components we've established that possibility here at Fort Jackson under some pretty strict guidelines of maintaining standards and refusing to sacrifice quality over quantity. Those two tracks are fitness and academic. The fitness track recognizes that we do not have the focus, the diet, the investment, the time or resources and many don't have that focus in their personal fitness to meet body fat standards. Some have jobs, a family… things like that that prevent them from investing in themselves. And the academic track recognizes that test taking skills today are atrophying. Stats show a 9% drop may be correlated to COVID-19 but maybe also a reduced need to take aptitude test for colleges such as the SAT and ACT. Along the same lines of the SAT and the ACT, they're built on a base of assumed knowledge in reading comprehension and arithmetic. If we can reinvest in delayed trainees’ knowledge here at Fort Jackson, we can unlock their true aptitude as a human being.
STEVE BEYNON: Sir, this is not answering my questions. Are they enlisted in the Army before they show up to either of these courses and can they take both courses?
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Great. Let me finish what I'm saying and then we'll get to it. So, both tracks are about 90 days in length with periodic off-ramps based on progress. The fitness track constantly evaluates a healthy reduction in body fat and lean body mass over a 90-day period focused on getting the 2% within the first 90 days. And then onward movement to basic combat training. Standard practice is about a 1-2% healthy body fat loss per month. We will take a Holistic Health & Fitness approach to your question exposing these trainees to diet, exercise, resilience and reflection while they're here. We've got dietitians, athletic trainers dedicated to each individual's personal journey and we’ll expose them to the Army, its values, its customs, its courtesies as we progress. The academic track looks to first base line aptitude based on using common off-the-shelf testing and then second immersive basic skills education program over the course of three weeks focused on those areas of need from the baseline testing. After three weeks, the delayed trainees will take the Armed Forces classification test to determine their aptitude. If they raise a category in accordance with the contract, which Major General Vereen will talk about, they will renegotiate through our USAREC Team here on the ground for a new MOS and proceed to basic combat training. If they don't meet the category requirements they will have three other opportunities to go through the BSEP [Basic Skills Education Program] course, itself and test. Those that don't meet the standard within 90 days will be separated under local authorities. They will be separated under Chapter 11 entry level performance and conduct and will be given a week of job hunting skills and resume building skills and assistance. They can reapply to join the Army after six months. Like every trainee here at Fort Jackson, we will continue to assess character to serve, while in the Future Soldier Prep Course under a whole person construct before they ever enter basic combat training. This gives us a greater level of fidelity and awareness of the delayed trainees and their potential to serve within established standards. We will learn a lot from the pilot as Lieutenant General Gervais talked about, and we are running some preliminary rehearsals here now that will allow us to determine the right flow from USAREC to allow us to create the quality Army we need.
So, in terms of the MOSs I'll turn that over to Major General Vereen, and then he can come back to me whether or not, what happens….are they getting paid? Yes, they're getting paid. And then there is no room right now to go dual track as in somebody that comes into the program that doesn't meet the academic standards and doesn't meet the body fat standards. Sir, over to you.
MAJ. GEN. VEREEN: This is Major General Vereen from USAREC again. So Brigadier General Michaelis kind of described the program. What we will do is we are going to enlist these young applicants under the delayed trainee code, which is 09M [Editor’s note: see MOS correction 4 paragraphs below], and then, of course, they are going to be participating in either one of the two tracks based on arms or based on the academic portion. And at the time that they are, they’ve completed the course, and of course they're able to move up, especially when you look at the academic side, if they are able to move from a category 4 into a higher category, we will renegotiate their contracts. So their contracts will then be tied to their scoring rate and they can get the opportunity to be able to serve in another available MOS based on the category which they fall into. So they will come, initially under a delayed trainee category, which is 09M, and they will not be dual tracked. They are going to be in one or the other stages of the course.
STEVE BEYNON: So, bottom line, they enlist, they can go to one of these two things that they missed, they’ve got 90 days to lose that 6% of their body fat or get smart enough to pass the ASVAB?
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: This is Lieutenant General Gervais. I mean, your summation was pretty spot-on, but a couple of nuances that I'd just like to point out. So both will come in on the 09M kind of a contract [Editor’s note: see MOS correction 2 paragraphs below]. The ones that going to the ARMS 2.0, the fitness component of this, they will when they come in, they will take what is known as the occupational physical assessment test which tells them, you know, which MOS’s they are qualified for and then they will have a MOS on that. The ones that come in for the academic piece part of this, and I want to make sure it's clear to those that we, are coming in on the academic piece of this, they have, they're qualified to come into the Army already because based on the scores that they have, their scores on the ASVAB had been lower. So typically, you know, we have a percentage that we bring in on the lower end of the ASVAB but they're qualified. So we are looking at ones that score between a 21 and a 31
that will come into the academic piece of this. They will go through, as Brigadier General Michaelis pointed out, they will go through this 90-day program focused on everything he talked about with the opportunity to improve their score. Because what we have seen and the way it typically worked previously, you know, we had 2, you know, 2+ years of COVID-19, we had across America where there was the virtual delivery of education across our nation. And then, on top of that, some of these underlying foundational education concepts were being delivered virtually. And so, when we would have a recruit come into the recruiting station, what we typically do is you take the ASVAB and they're qualified…they will come into the recruiting station, they will be qualified, but if they're on the lower end that I just described we would typically say, hey, we want you to go back and practice, go to this virtual website, practice some more. And as you practice some more come back and you'll have another opportunity to take the ASVAB to improve your score. What we're saying now is, you know, going back and sending them back virtually to do what we were doing before is probably not in the best interest. We're going to bring you in the academic track a little structured using our basic skills education program which we've been using since 1977 and we're going to invest in you, give you a little more structured
environment and provide the opportunity to improve your score on the test. So that's kind of the concept behind it right there and hopefully that clarified it. I know it's been a long answer, and I apologize for that but hopefully we answered your question.
STEVE BEYNON: Thanks.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Thanks. Thank you, ma’am. And Steve, just for context, for the academic skills development program, those service members, they enlist under the 09M delayed training category and then those that come under the ARMS, the physical fitness, you know, program those ones will have an MOS - just wanted to make sure that you understood what the team was saying.
STEVE BEYNON: (audio breaking up) …..they're in a uniform, they have the rank of private or whatever..
LT. COL. PAYTON: Right, yeah. Are you good on it? Okay. Alright. Thank you. And now we're moving on to Haley Britzky from Task & Purpose.
HALEY BRITZKY: Hi, yes. Thank you all so much for doing this. Haley with Task & Purpose. I'm wondering if you could just speak a little bit more, as far as like logistics, on the instructor side. Is this going to be existing drill sergeants who are going to be running this program or other qualified Army individuals? Are you recruiting more NCOs, drill sergeants? And just kind of talk about what that's going to look like? And then I'm also wondering, I mean, the Army and really the military as a whole sort of has a reputation when it comes to its weight standards for people who try to lose weight quickly but not necessarily healthy or developing healthy habits - rather just trying to lose it quickly to meet the standard and move forward. So, how are these new soldiers going to be monitored to ensure they aren't just taking steps to lose weight rapidly to move forward but are actually going to be making healthy, you know, steps forward and with the Army’s H2F [Holistic Health and Fitness] program?
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Yeah, Haley. This is Pat Michaelis here again. So on the Cadre and the instructor, so we have re-missioned one of our basic combat training battalions here to array against this mission with some really great leadership in command of that formation. We've been very, very picky about the having the right cadre there. Many of them are drill sergeants that understand that this is going to be a learning environment for our academic component. We're also working with [Installation Management Command] IMCOM to bring in basic skills education program educators from across the Army here. They'll start to flow in here in the August time frame. In our IOC capability we've got some great officers down from Fort Benning who have got backgrounds in teaching that are leading the charge until we get something a little bit more permanent in structure.
When it comes to the fitness component and healthily losing weight - so it's not only body fat, it's lean mass growth too. And we think we're in a much different place than we've been in in a long, long time with holistic health and fitness. The way we've been executing basic combat training here and then the focus will be putting on these trainees, these delayed trainees that come into Fort Jackson, both with dietitians and with athletic trainers, and really exposing them to the components of holistic health and fitness to actually walking the dining facilities to make sure they understand the difference between green and other components in their diet itself. So I think we are, we're very set on making sure that this is a deliberate healthy process to getting to body fat standards that they come out of this better versions of themselves.
HALEY BRITZKY: Thank you.
LT. COL. PAYTON: All right. Thank you. Next we have on the net Courtney Kube NBC. Your turn.
Okay, I don't hear her. So we're going to move to the next person. Tom Bowman NPR.
TOM BOWMAN: Yeah, Tom Bowman, NPR. A couple of things. First of all, it seems that the Army will be about 14,000 recruits short come October. What's the practical implication of that? Do you shift Soldiers among units who are deploying? How do you handle that number? It's roughly the size of a division as you know. And also years ago the Marines had a program, it was more regional in scope. Let's say in Baltimore, you have 20 potential recruits that are overweight. They would meet at a public park and do physical training and so forth. So beyond Fort Jackson, are you looking at any sort of a city based or regional approach for your effort?
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: This is Lieutenant General Gervais. Hey, I think hum, you know, depending on what the end strength number is, I think it's, you know, what you won't see is an immediate impact on that as we discussed previously. And right now we're looking at all initiatives and what could we do in the future - So you know, nothing is off the table right now. We are starting with this pilot to determine if this pilot and the information we gain from this pilot can inform what is our approach - whether this becomes permanent, whether we expand to other sites or is there a different way to do it? So I would just answer that is that we are currently exploring all initiatives to see how we can tackle the challenge that is presenting itself not just in this, in FY22 but also as we believe will take us into FY23.
TOM BOWMAN: As far as the 14,000 below target, what is the practical impact of that for the Army?
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: Yeah. So, Tom, what I would ask is let us take that back and let us come back to you on that answer so that we make sure that we get the right expertise into that question. So, for OCPA [Office of the Chief of Public Affairs] that's on the team, can you take that back so we can answer that question more fully with the right expertise?
LT. COL. PAYTON: Yes, ma'am. Tom, we’ve got that question recorded and will respond promptly with an answer.
TOM BOWMAN: Okay. Thank you.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Okay, alright well, thank you. So moving down, we have Amanda Cooper.
AMANDA COOPER: Yes, this is Amanda Cooper with COLA Daily here in Columbia, SC. And I'm calling, my question is, I notice here it says that there's a maximum of 90 days for the program with every three weeks to leave the program and shift to basic training. For those recruits that do excel well in the program, is there some sort of incentive for them in their contract?
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Amanda, it’s great to hear from you. So it’s designed with off ramps in here every three weeks, so that they can attend the basic combat training. That is essentially the incentive. If they get to the 2% or they have raised a category when it comes to the academic portion of it, they get to join our Army.
AMANDA COOPER: Okay, I didn’t know if there was some sort of monetary incentive. I know a lot of times there is in regards to recruitment and I didn't know if that was something to encourage them to really be engaged and to accelerate out of the program quicker.
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Here's another way to kind of think about it, when they come out of the program on the academic side of the house and they go back and renegotiate their contract with our USAREC brothers that are here on the Fort Jackson, if there is an MOS that has a bonus associated with it, all those things are still in play.
AMANDA COOPER. Okay, thank you.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Okay, and moving on to Scott from Federal News Network.
SCOTT MAUCIONE: Yeah, thanks a lot for doing this. Just curious, as far as setting up the course and taking people through it what kind of costs will the Army be incurring and appropriated for this program?
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Ma’am, do you want me to answer or do you want to answer that one?
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: Yeah, hey, so right now to get this course stood up we're projecting just about in FY22 the operating cost, you know, initially right around four million dollars. If you take a look at it, the cost is going to cover some initial expenses to set up kind of the academic portion of the course - you know, things like laptops, tablets, internet, course material and then some personnel costs. And then you know, as we take a look at this and potentially need to expand it that cost would, you know, would increase minimally from there. So hopefully that answered your question.
SCOTT MAUCIONE: That's great. Thank you very much.
LT. COL. PAYTON: And now we have Caitlin, Stars and Stripes.
CAITLIN DOORNBOS: All right, thank you so much. Yes. Wondering if I can have you just explain a little bit more about the day-to-day what would that look like in each of these programs? I know you've mentioned a little bit before, but, you know, what percentage of the day for example, with the body fat percentage one, what percentage of the day would be set on meeting with a dietician or are they going to be going to classes about nutrition? How much of the day will be working out? Also, and you may have mentioned it, but are there certain standards that they have to meet in order to prequalify even for this program? For example, you were talking about losing 2% body fat a month, if there's 90 days, that means can they only have, can they only be over by 6% body fat?
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: Yeah, I'll take those questions. So the components - the fitness component and the academic component have, for lack of a better term, a core map or a training schedule associated with it. Broken down over the course of the three weeks from the academic side, as you would suspect, it's heavily focused on classroom work. And then to offset that they've got study halls with proctors. They'll also be heavily involved in normal socialization to the Army type activities such as values, customs and courtesies, physical fitness. Even in the academic component, we are laying on top of it Holistic Health and Fitness because we want them to be exposed to physical fitness and nutritional aspects of being a soldier today.
On the business component, it’s just an extrapolation out from that. They will have fitness trainers leading them through physical fitness, putting then through classes associated with nutrition and diet and sleep, reflection, spiritual resilience in a line with the five factors of holistic health and fitness. And they will also be educated in basic Army training camp like things such as values, customs and courtesies, drill and ceremonies, and things along those lines. They'll all be issued a baseline uniform so that they have something to wear every single day and to do the physical fitness in their physical fitness uniforms. But then say if they end up moving into the basic combat training track itself, the rest of their uniforms and equipment will be issued to them.
From a pre-qualification perspective underneath the fitness component, we've been running a version of arms for a couple years now. We put around 1,200 soldiers through it, up to 2% body fat with about 1% that have been removed from service coming out of it. By the time they move to their first unit of assignment, they had to be within the Army standard, the body fat standards. So we've extrapolated out that 6% mainly because of the science behind it. We know that coming through basic combat training, the average body fat loss for a soldier coming through here is anywhere between 5 and 7%. So we think we can healthily put them through the fitness component of the Future Soldier Prep School to get them down to 2% before they're injected into the basic combat training pipeline itself, making sure we maintain the current standards that we have.
CAITLIN DOORNBOS: Thank you and on the academic track, are you going to be talking about, are you teaching directly to the ASVAB or are you also going to be talking about test taking skills and things like that?
BRIG. GEN. MICHAELIS: So that's a great question. So, you know, we think the theory here is that test taking skills are in great need for this population. So the BSEP program has four basic components to it which give a baseline of knowledge that we think is needed for any aptitude test. So, test taking skills is the first part of it. It's also reading comprehension, vocabulary and arithmetic. So what we're doing is we're focusing on what are those baseline knowledge skills needed to determine true aptitude.
CAITLIN DOORNBOS: Thank you.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Okay. Now we have Alex Horton, Washington Post.
ALEX HORTON: Hey guys, thanks for doing this. This is Alex Horton, Washington Post. The Army is not the only service that (audio breaking up) compared to other services. So I’m kind of curious what are some of the things unique to the Army challenges. Does it have anything to do with the fact that the Army was the face of a ground war that was fought for 20 years and lost by the US and whether or not this cultural movement in conservative circles criticizing the woke military [INAUDIBLE] as you guys know attacking your recruiting campaign, specifically about the true story of one of your soldiers who grew up with two moms. I'm curious on what those kind of other social effects have had on your recruiting efforts.
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: Hey Kevin Vereen, you want to….
MAJ. GEN. VEREEN: Yes, I will. So this is Major General Vereen. I appreciate the question. From my perspective, having been the commanding general here for two years, from my perspective there has been no impact with regards to the things you just addressed and discussed, brought up with regard to the interest of these young men and women to want to not join the Army. Now, of course, I think what we have, if I could fit it into four different things, I think as we look across the spectrum of recruiting and military recruiting, I will speak for the Army, one, I think we have a knowledge gap. I think that's an indicator that our young men and women just don't necessarily know about our Army as well as I think they should, and some of that I think we understand is about really making sure that our Army is in the right places across America. I think there's a trust gap in some cases with the Army and with the other parts of the military. You know, at some point in time I think there is a lack of trust. I think there's a relatability gap that we are experiencing where our young men and women just don't know how, they don't know how they fit and how the military or the Army is matching up with them with their ability to be able to perform. So they don't see that relationship connection with regards to the Army. And so and the last thing I think we have a culture gap. The Army and the military, of course I'm speaking for the Army, we are a culture. We have our own sort of culture and environment that we created and it's not bad but it's the Army culture. And in some cases, our young men and women don't necessarily think that they could fit into this culture called the Army and could serve in uniform. So, I think those are more of the things that we're seeing, not necessarily….
ALEX HORTON: Well, sir, respectfully, everything you just went over has nothing to do with the Army in relation to the services. So again, what is, why are you guys in a recruiting predicament that the Marine Corps, the Navy and the Air Force are not?
MAJ. GEN. VEREEN: Can you say again the last part?
ALEX HORTON: Why are you guys in this particularly dire recruiting shortfall that the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force are not in?
MAJ. GEN. VEREEN: Okay, so I, if I could just summarize it's about scope and scale. The Army is the largest service of all of them. Our recruiting numbers are nearly double to triple the size of the recruiting mission for the other services. So it's really scope and scale of our recruiting efforts. And so that is probably what we will see as one of the issues with regards to our challenges with this recruiting year.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Okay, now we have Davis Winkie Army Times.
DAVIS WINKIE: Hey, I appreciate the opportunity, I appreciate everyone being here. My question is based on the fact that the numbers show that this has been coming up - this recruiting shortfall. Why did it take this long to set up a program like this? And what were some of the biggest points of friction in coming together with this plan and deciding to go with it? Thanks.
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: Thanks Davis. First of all, I'm Lieutenant General Gervais. Thank you very much for that question. That's a very insightful question that you're asking. You know, I think as you take a look at it and Kevin and his team down at USAREC, you know, as we took a look at the COVID-19 environment coming out of it what were the different variables that we were seeing and then you know what were we assessing especially as you take a look at our youth and what were, where was, where were they at and where were we able to actually start seeing, you know, the extent of the challenge. Because if you think about it 2+ years we haven't had the access to schools. We haven't had the engagements with America out in all of those different engagement events that we've had previously. So, you know, I think if you take a look at that and coming out of the COVID [pandemic], the access to our youth to now kind of seeing what the numbers were and then really being able to decide deep into the details, you know, was it there? Yes. But, were we truly understanding why? The why underneath it? I think it took a little bit of time to truly understand that piece of it, to really understand, you know, the impact it was going to have on our recruiting challenges. And so you know I think some of that friction there was, is it that we just have to get back and have access to our high schools and our youth and that engagement so they know about the Army and back in our communities? Was it, you know, the labor market as you know we came out of COVID-19 and you started seeing the competition and then we saw, you know, some of the industry partners, our civilian sector, the competition out there with the benefits that they were now trying to employ in the labor market - all of these were kind of coming together at what I would call almost a, you know, at the same time point of impact. So what was the real variable that we could understand on how we could actually impact and shape that. I think that was the part of our challenge.
Kevin, I'm going to pause there to see if you want to jump on anything to give Mr. Winkie a finer perspective of what I just said.
MAJ. GEN. VEREEN: Yes. No that's, that's a great way to frame it. I, you know, and I think Lieutenant General Gervais did a great job of kind of laying it out. But it's really, you know, we worked so hard to navigate through the environment that COVID-19 kind of led us, that basically we were given, and it's a matter of, you know, how do we navigate through? A lot of it was virtually, we had to. But I think as Lieutenant General Gervais framed it those touch points that we did not have that we normally have in normal environments, really were the things that we were focusing on. But yet we couldn't necessarily see the residual effects of the lack of formal schooling and the formal instruction in a facility that, you know, that went to a virtual setting. What were the implications? We didn't necessarily see that until after things kind of opened back up. And now we're starting to see the results of testing over the last two years and the challenge with standardized testing. We saw this and we saw it during this recruiting year. We started to see the amount of young men and women, who are now seniors, who are testing and testing with the ASVAB that were falling short of performing very well. So we saw that. Now, we knew the obesity issue and, you know, and some of the medical challenges with our youth. We knew that a couple years ago, which is, you know, part of the other challenge but we were not necessarily seeing the academic piece until this year as folks were starting to now test who had just come out of two years of you know of virtual and hybrid sort of schooling - we started to see that. So it's a great effort I think to combine both. And that's why you see the two tracks of our course, when we talk about the Future Soldier Prep Course that we are trying to Institute now.
LT. GEN. GERVAIS: I'll just add two things and then I'll turn it back over to the moderator. So, you know, as we took a look at this and we kind of saw a couple indicators. As we started taking action, when we started putting bonuses and incentives in place and offering different options, what we saw was you know, as we tried to implement that what we were also trying to analyze this okay, why is this not having the effect or achieving what we're trying to achieve? When we looked at that we had to dive deeper and you know what we just kind of realized was there was this 9% drop in you know those that were able to get a higher qualifying score on the ASVAB than we had previously seen. Because the things we were doing were having an impact but not quite the impact that we had achieved, but this is no way shape or form any type of criticism towards you know our education system in the country. I think it's just we're seeing the second and third order effects of delivering it virtually, not taking standardized test, testing. And then we kind of had to change our previous practice which was hey just go out to a website, practice some more and then come back and take the ASVAB. We knew we had to do something different.
And then the last thought I'll just leave you with is you know, the Secretary of the Army as we started kind of noticing the things she quickly formed an accessions and recruiting tiger team efforts which is led by our ASA M&RA so that we could look at everything that we really need to implement to get ahead of this, not just for FY22, but well into FY23 and beyond.
So great question. I think we really had to understand the variables and the underlying challenges that were impacting this. I'll turn it back over to the moderator.
LT. COL. PAYTON: Hey, thank you, ma'am. And I want to thank everyone. That's, that's all the time we have. And I just want to just reiterate, thank you guys for getting on the net and hearing about the program with the Future Soldier Preparatory Course we have to get after the challenges. I just want to reiterate, as you probably saw in the note from the Secretary of the Army, that we recognize the challenges but it isn’t something that is going to be resolved overnight. This certainly is not a panacea, but it's a step in the right direction for maintaining our quality standards but also increasing opportunities for the young people in America to be able to serve in the Army. And with that, I invite you, if you haven't already gone to Army.mil, you should see an article there that talks about the Future Soldier Preparatory Course. And you'll also see the memorandum from the Secretary of the Army, Chief of Staff of the Army on 20 July talking about recruiting. I know we have a follow up with Tom, and again, if you guys have any other follow-ups you can contact the Office of Chief of Public Affairs Media Relations Division with those, and we will do our best to return your answer so you can get your stories out. With that again, thank you for attending and that concludes this for today.