ARLINGTON, Va. — Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, the current Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations, G-9, and former commanding general of Army Recruiting Command, participated last week on a keynote panel called “Generation Z: Leading and Supporting the Military’s Next Generation” at the 2023 National Summit hosted by the Association of Defense Communities in Washington, D.C. The event focused on bringing military, industry and community partners together to build enduring partnerships that are mutually beneficial. Recruiting and retaining the next generation of warfighters was a major theme.
The timing of the panel was appropriate for two reasons: this year marks the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, and last week the Army brought back its iconic “Be All You Can Be” slogan.
People are the Army’s greatest strength and number-one priority. This is where the Army’s Installations Enterprise comes into play in recruiting and retaining the next great generation of Soldiers.
“Recruitment starts with people, and these Soldiers are retained by consistently working to improve their quality of life,” Vereen said. “Our Army is strong because of the people who serve and the families who support these Soldiers. This is why the Army is committed to taking care of its people.”
Soldiers enable the Army to protect America by being constantly ready to fight and win the nation’s wars.
“The G-9 enables readiness through our quality-of-life plans, programs and policies that help the Army recruit, train, fight and win,” said Vereen. “When our Soldiers are no longer focused on quality-of-life concerns, they are able to remain focused on the mission.”
Winning matters, and that is why the G-9 is dedicated to supporting Soldiers, families, and Army civilians wherever they train, work and live.
“We understand the importance of gaining and retaining talent, and that means ensuring there are safe, quality facilities for Soldiers on every Army installation,” Vereen said. “The Army may recruit Soldiers, but we retain families. So, we have to create opportunities for our families as well. Army spouses need to have the ability to transfer their careers when they PCS with their Soldiers. One of the ways we get after this is by encouraging our community partners to look for opportunities for remote work for Army spouses. We wouldn't ask our military communities to do something we aren't already doing. So, I'll share that we have opened up remote work opportunities for our own military spouse community within the G-9.”
Another way the Army is prioritizing this initiative is through the Military Spouse Career Accelerator Pilot, a 12-week paid fellowship that expands opportunities for eligible military spouses. The program launched this past winter, but the Army has struggled to find industry partners to match with eligible spouses, so Lt. Gen. Vereen shared a call to action with the defense partners present in the audience.
“I challenge industry to help us by understanding and knowing the value military spouses bring to any organization,” he said.
The Army is also supporting dual-income families by ensuring quality, affordable child care is available at every Army installation.
"Soldiers want to become Army families,” Vereen said. “Ensuring that we provide quality, safe and affordable child care for our Soldiers and families is essential in ensuring mission and Army readiness."
The G-9 is committed to ensuring that child care facilities are staffed with well-trained and equipped teams of professionals. Army leaders are also dedicated to increasing capacity, ensuring the construction of new child development centers, which will provide thousands of new child care spaces for Army families across the nation.
The Army is also offering incentives for in-home care through the Family Child Care program. This includes up to a $1,000 bonus for child care providers who PCS and remain in the program at their new locations, and up to a $1,000 recruitment bonus paid to new FCC providers – and $2,000 for those living in Alaska. Currently, there are 110 FCC providers across the Army, but the G-9 is hoping to further expand the program.
“These quality-of-life initiatives are in addition to other valuable recruitment and retention incentives, like free health care and generous education benefits,” said Vereen.
In addition to quality-of-life issues, the Army also recognizes that the next generation of warfighters is different.
“We have to have a different way of thinking when it comes to Gen Z,” Vereen said. “They think differently. They want to contribute to the country differently, and that needs to be considered.”
The Army is addressing this by meeting this generation where they are, especially on social media. G-9 is part of the Army's numerous social media campaigns to ensure that potential recruits – as well as our current Soldiers and families – are aware of the many quality-of-life services and programs available to them at every Army Installation.
Army leaders know that recruiting and retaining Gen Z will require many approaches.
“We are in a competition for talent,” Vereen said. “With this competition comes money. It’s going to cost money to maintain and retain talent. The Army is promoting many incentives to resonate with this generation. The Army knows that we are competing with corporate America, universities, franchises and other military branches. If we want to be competitive in this space, we need to understand what motivates and excites this generation.”
Army leaders also know that the Army cannot recruit the next generation of warfighters alone. Lt. Gen. Vereen and other leaders at the summit asked communities and partners to get involved with recruitment and retention efforts by helping to reintroduce their communities to the Army.
“Partnerships are key to this,” said Vereen. “This is America’s Army. So, we need the full depth and breadth of our nation to recruit OUR Army. There is influence and power in our partnerships.”
Closing out the panel discussion, Vereen left the audience with a final call to action.
“We cannot sit on the sidelines and watch,” he said. “We have to be willing to roll up our sleeves and get after recruiting. We have to be willing to step up as a united team in this effort.”