By Donna MilesSeptember 5, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 5, 2007) - The Army's new "quick-ship" bonus program is showing success in getting prospective recruits to enlist and is expected to help the Army make its end-of-year recruiting goal, the Army's recruiting chief told Pentagon reporters today.
Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, credited the $20,000 quick-ship bonus with helping to motivate would-be Soldiers who were "on the fence" about joining the ranks.
The program was introduced in late July to provide a financial incentive for recruits willing to ship off quickly to basic training. In August alone, 200 recruits who were planning to ship in September went a month early.
Maj. Gen. Bostick said it's one of several recruiting initiatives the Army has put in place to ensure it meets its fiscal 2007 goals.
This year, for example, the average bonus was up to about $15,000, but some run as high as $40,000, the maximum allowed by Congress.
A new $15,000 bonus and a two-year Army College Fund contribution for Soldiers taking the two-year enlistment option are gaining momentum, too, Maj. Gen. Bostick said. The combination, introduced in July, doubled the Army's two-year enlistments, he said.
Educational incentives like the Army College Fund, Montgomery G.I. Bill and college loan-repayment programs are important, Maj. Gen. Bostick said, because many recruits hope to further their education.
He called these incentives critical to the Army's effort to fill its ranks with high-quality recruits at a particularly difficult time. "This is the first time that we have had to recruit an Army into the all-volunteer force during protracted combat operations," he said. "So it is a bit more challenging."
Many prospective applicants are concerned about the war in Iraq, he said. That's reflected in the lowest interest among recruitment-age youth in joining the military than at any other time during the past two decades. Twenty years ago, 25 percent of 17-to-24-year-olds said they'd likely serve in the military during the next three to five years, Maj. Gen. Bostick said. Today, it's 15.7 percent.
Meanwhile, parents, coaches and other adult influencers concerned about the war are less likely to encourage military service, he said. Right now, 25 percent of mothers and 33 percent of fathers say they would recommend military service to their children. That's down from 40 percent and 50 percent, respectively, in 2004.
This is all occurring when unemployment is at historic lows, giving young people many career options.
"But we're not wringing our hands," Maj. Gen. Bostick said. "We are manning this Army. We are doing a pretty good job of it. I think we have a lot who are answering the call to duty."
As of July 30, 83,000 recruits had joined the active Army and Army Reserve. Nearly 62,000 of them went on active duty, bringing the Army about 1,000 troops ahead of its year-to-date recruiting goal. Nearly 21,500 recruits had joined the Army Reserve by the end of July, about 180 behind its year-to-date goal.
Maj. Gen. Bostick reported "a very good month" in August, but declined to reveal the Army's recruiting numbers until the Defense Department releases them next week.
He vowed to close any remaining gaps by Sept. 30 and meet the active Army's year-end goal of 80,000 recruits and Army Reserve's goal of 26,500.
The mission of manning the Army isn't just a challenge for the Army, he said. "This is a challenge for the nation. And if this nation wishes to remain free and enjoy the democracy that we have in this country, it will take Soldiers that are willing to stand up and defend this country as they are in Iraq, Afghanistan and throughout the world."
(Donna Miles writes for the American Forces Press Service.)