JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. — The Army is celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Future Soldier Preparatory Course on August 8, 2023, a pilot program intended to help America’s youth overcome academic and physical fitness barriers to service and meet or exceed the Army’s accession standards.
The Army launched this innovative new program in response to the most challenging recruiting environment since the start of the all-volunteer force in 1973, brought on by a shrinking pool of qualified American youth and impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The results from the Future Soldier Preparatory Course have been very encouraging, providing more than 8,800 young men and women a path to serve in our all-volunteer force,” said Gen. Gary M. Brito, the commanding general for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command. “The Army will continue to find innovative ways to invest in individuals who have the desire and passion to serve but may need help in meeting the Army’s enlistment standards, which we have not and will not lower.”
The course consists of two tracks — fitness and academic. The academic track focuses on improving word knowledge, reading comprehension, arithmetic reasoning and test-taking skills to help students improve their Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, scores. In the fitness track, students are educated on the five Holistic Health and Fitness readiness domains — physical, mental, nutrition, sleep and spiritual readiness — to help them meet the Army’s enlistment body fat composition standards.
Recruits can participate in a single track or both based on their personal needs.
Both tracks have a 95% graduation rate over the first year of the program, with students in the academic track increasing their ASVAB scores by an average of 18.5 points and students in the fitness track losing an average of 1.7% of body fat per week.
The pilot program was initially stood up at Fort Jackson, South Carolina and was expanded to Fort Moore, Georgia (formerly Fort Benning) in January 2023.
“We are incredibly proud of the instructors and cadre for preparing and building quality recruits, but ultimately the credit for this program’s success goes to the students”, said Brig. Gen. Jason E. Kelly, the Fort Jackson commanding general. “The Future Soldier Prep Course is where desire meets investment, and everyday these young men and women show that when provided the right resources and training, they are able to perform and meet or exceed the standards expected of every Soldier.”
While the numbers clearly show the program is delivering for the Army, it is also helping many young Americans who may have struggled with meeting enlistment standards realize their dream of serving their nation as a professional Soldier.
“The course meant a lot to me,” said Pvt. Elysette Ortiz, who increased her ASVAB score by 22 points while in the program and graduated from basic training in November. “I spent a lot of time trying to get into the Army. This program helped me make it to this point.”
Friends and family have also seen firsthand how much this program has done for their loved ones in such a short amount of time.
“As someone who doesn’t test well, it was hard seeing her come back time and again from taking the ASVAB test,” said Carrie Speikers, Ortiz’s aunt. “So when this program came about, it opened up a world of opportunity for her so she could reach her dreams and become a Soldier, which is all she’s ever wanted to do.”
Pvt. Tyra Winters was about 6% over the enlistment body fat standard before she attended the course’s fitness track. She has since graduated both the course and basic training on her way to becoming a dental specialist.
“I'm actually an example of someone who didn't lose any weight but lost body fat percentage and inches,” said Winters. “They tell you right off the bat it’s not a weight loss program. It sets you up with literally the formula for success, you just have to be open minded and trust yourself to do it.”
Graduates from the academic track are also able to re-negotiate their enlistment contracts and may qualify for a different military occupational specialty or additional incentives.
Over the past year, the Army has given out more than $15.5 million in bonuses to Future Soldier Preparatory Course graduates.
“I started with an ASVAB score of 38 and my MOS was 91B, which is a wheeled vehicle mechanic,” said Pvt. Nia Bautista, a recent graduate of the course at Fort Moore. “Through the program, I was able to increase my ASVAB score to 90 and qualified to change my job to MOS 68W, which is a combat medic. I qualified for a bonus of $7,500 and for Airborne School.”
The success of the program thus far is reflected in the little victories recruits celebrate along the way as they make progress toward meeting their personal goals.
“I have seen positive results. I’ve lost an inch on my waist and about ten pounds,” said Pvt. Jeremiah Martin, who recently graduated from the fitness track. “I feel like I’m constantly getting stronger every day.”
The Army will continue to assess and scale the Future Soldier Preparatory Course to ensure we are successfully preparing and building quality recruits.
“Every day we have new examples of someone overcoming their personal obstacles, realizing their full potential, and fulfilling their dream of serving our great Army,” stated Brito. “The Army will continue to find opportunities for more volunteers to serve without sacrificing the quality needed across the force, so they can be all that they can be.”