WASHINGTON — The Army wants to add 800 new students over the next two months to its Army Recruiting and Retention College at Fort Knox, Kentucky, a service leader said today.
In addition, Soldiers who volunteer to serve as recruiters will receive incentives, and the Army pledges to care for those troops and their families, said Lt. Gen. Doug Stitt, deputy chief of staff for personnel.
The bonuses include immediate promotion to staff sergeant upon reporting to their first recruiting assignment and graduates of the school who enroll in the Army Recruiter Course by February 2024 will receive a one-time lump sum of $5,000. The promotions to staff sergeant will be conditional, and Soldiers will still need to meet professional military education requirements.
Staff sergeants who volunteer will be eligible for promotion to sergeant first class if they field 24 signed enlistment contracts and all 24 recruits attend Basic Combat Training over a maximum 12-month period. Current recruiters who extend their three-year assignment will be awarded $1,500 per month for up to 12 months.
The service will also consider reassigning Soldiers slated to attend the Army’s Drill Sergeant School at Fort Jackson, South Carolina to the Recruiting and Retention College.
Sgt. Maj. Christopher Stevens, senior enlisted advisor for Army Personnel, G-1, said that the selections will not impede the service’s abilities to train new recruits.
Stitt said that last week the service identified a drop in the number of students scheduled to attend the college on Monday, as the service looks to bolster its recruiter corps of more than 10,000 Soldiers.
“The losses exceeded the gains and in order to maintain that momentum that we were seeing within the recruiting force, we [started] to set the conditions for transformation,” Stitt said while speaking to reporters Wednesday. “We made the decision this week to bump up the numbers [of recruiting college students].”
Over the past two weeks, the Army screened and selected Soldiers throughout the force to report to the college by Monday.
Staff Sgt. Dustin Biven, assigned as a non-commissioned officer-in charge of multimedia production at the Defense Media Activity, Fort Meade, Maryland said he received his notification to report to Fort Knox on Friday. Biven’s wife recently gave birth to a baby boy, and he was scheduled to complete his paternity leave. The father of four also had mission commitments and a full-time college schedule that could be compromised by the new assignment.
Biven said that reassigned Soldiers have been asked to shift their life and careers in a short window of time.
“I am very fortunate to have the support system and a wife who could care for our children,” said Biven, 30. “But there are some single Soldiers out there and some single mothers out there — people who probably are not medically fit or are able to go because of pre-existing conditions or surgeries — that are being tapped with this [assignment] and they are frightened.”
Stitt expressed regret for the late notice and said the service will contact the selected Soldiers and work with their unique circumstances.
“I’d like to open up and first of all apologize to the Soldiers and the families that received this last-minute notification,” Stitt said. “That mistake is mine.”
He said the service is working on multiple avenues to minimize the impact to Soldiers and families.
“It’s not lost on me, particularly at this point in time, the impact this last-minute notification and now being on the cusp of the holidays has on our Soldiers and our great NCOs as they navigate a process to support the recruiting enterprise,” Stitt added.
When questioned whether the service will open selection to candidates who do not meet requirements, such as fitness and physical training scores and body fat requirements, Stitt reiterated that standards will be met.
He said that the branch will prioritize identifying the candidates that meet the qualifications to attend the college. Soldiers must be in the grade of E-5 to E-7 and have a minimum four years in service to qualify.
“This is not about a number,” he added. “This is about identifying the right Soldiers to go in there and support this effort.”
“Our standard for suitability screening has not changed,” Stevens said. “We're talking about positions of trust.”
Army human resources will work with the Soldiers’ chain of command and career counselors on a case-by-case basis to assure that recruiter candidates have a smooth transition, Stitt said.
“We will communicate with the family and the chain of command and work this by the individual, to ensure if that Soldier has a life situation, family situation or professional situation,” Stitt said. “We’re going to talk to that Soldier, to that family, to work through this to ensure that we have the right NCOs at the right time to perform this vital mission in service of our recruiting enterprise.”
To build recruiting momentum, Stitt said Army leaders are working closely with U.S. Army Recruiting Command to outline required knowledge, skills and behaviors for the Army’s new military occupational specialty, 42T talent acquisition specialists.
Secretary of the Army Christine E. Wormuth announced on Oct. 3, 2023, the Army will transform its recruiting force from temporary positions to permanent military occupational specialties for both Soldiers and warrant officers. A pilot program will soon be in development.
For now, the Army hopes to attract enough volunteers to recruit the next generation of Soldiers and asked commanders and leaders throughout the force to encourage Soldiers to volunteer to become recruiters.
“We are communicating through the chain-of-command,” Stitt said. “Talk to your Soldiers. If they are ready to volunteer, here are the incentives. And if you've been identified for reassignment and have some family, personal, professional concerns, let's sit down and let's talk about it.”