FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — With recruiting a hot topic on the agenda of this year’s conference for the civilian aides to the Secretary of the Army — being held this week at Fort Leonard Wood for the first time — Gen. Gary Brito, commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, visited the mid-Missouri installation on Wednesday to discuss the topic with the 100 or so CASAs, as they’re called.
Speaking in the Engineer Regimental Room of the John B. Mahaffey Museum Complex here, Brito, who became TRADOC CG in September, thanked the business and community leaders for “telling the Army story.” While acknowledging the low enlisted accession numbers over the past couple of years — the Army missed its recruiting goal by about 15,000 in fiscal year 2022 — Brito added the training being done here and at the other Army centers of excellence — and the work being done by U.S. Army Recruiting Command — could not be more important, and “could not be more impressive, also.”
Brito laid out for the CASAs some of the problems recruiters have faced recently, including the multitude of impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“School doors were closed to recruiters,” he said. “We also know, some Soldiers had challenges with home learning, home schooling, remote learning, and we know that impacted (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) and other tests.”
Brito also pointed to America’s strong economy.
“Our history has shown, when the economy is great, the services have a challenge,” he said, noting many private industries are also facing recruiting challenges due to the plethora of career opportunities currently available to job seekers.
Many times, crises provide great opportunities, Brito said, and “rather than argue with this generation, we need to adapt.”
“A few months back, I was visiting a recruiting battalion out of San Diego,” he said. “A great initiative by the battalion commander — that has since been spread across USAREC — was he took the 155-plus jobs, skills that the Army offers, put them in simple career paths that were understandable and could be explained to guidance counselors, parents and other influencers. Great idea!”
Brito also noted the recent Army marketing slogan change back to “Be All You Can Be,” and lauded the successes of the Army’s 90-day Future Soldier Preparatory Course at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, which helps those who want to serve overcome academic or physical fitness barriers.
The Army has not lowered its standards to meet recruiting numbers, Brito said. On the contrary, the preparatory course has helped the Army bring in people “to meet that standard.” He said 4,200 individuals have graduated from the program so far, with a 98 percent graduation rate for those who put in the work.
In addition to noting the 18-point score increase the Army has seen from graduates of the program on the ASVAB — which measures developed abilities, as well as propensity to learn different subject areas — Brito told the story of one Soldier he met, who lost weight through the program.
“All he wanted to do was serve,” Brito said. “He came to the Future Soldier Prep Course and lost 41 pounds. He moved on to basic training, graduated basic training, and now, he’s at his first assignment. That is not a unique success story out of this course, and we’re going to continue.”
All of the Army’s initiatives to “reconnect with America” after the pandemic will take a little time, Brito said, but they will succeed.
“I’m comfortable and confident that we’re going to turn this tide,” he said. “We simply have to.”
After Brito addressed the CASAs, the group was divided up by region and breakout brainstorming sessions were held with recruiting officials.
Lt. Col. Shane Doolan, Chicago Recruiting Battalion commander, met with about 20 CASAs from across the Midwest region. They discussed many ideas to make the Army more accessible as an option in the minds of America’s sons and daughters, and Doolan said, in his experience, potential future Soldiers don’t necessarily all want the same incentives to join.
“This generation is more diverse,” he said. “No one incentive works for everyone, and financial incentives not as much as location or job.”
Doolan said he was initially surprised to learn the top two locations recruits want these days are Korea and Alaska.
“They want adventure,” he said. “They want experiences. And for some, the popularity of things like K-pop (short for Korean popular music) make them want Korea. I used to think everyone wanted to go to a place like Germany, but that’s not the case anymore.”