FORT KNOX, Ky. (Dec. 27, 2011) -- Over the past year a 4-pound electronic device about the size of a child's shoebox has saved U.S. Army Recruiting Command millions of dollars and thousands of recruiter man-hours. The small device enables recruiters to gather fingerprints for FBI background checks on applicants before they go to the Military Entrance Processing Station.

Part of a Department of the Army pilot initiative now called "Project Live Scan," the devices were placed in approximately two-thirds of recruiting stations last April.

"I don't think words can explain how great it's been," said Sgt. 1st Class James Alston, the Elizabethtown, Ky., Recruiting Center commander. "It's eliminated a whole lot of unneeded travel time for recruiters."

The time savings is approximately four hours per applicant, according to Accessions Command surveys. By moving the fingerprinting step to the forefront of the recruiting process recruiters know within a few days whether or not an applicant has a criminal record. By running the scans early, when the applicant commits to enlisting, recruiters don't have to waste valuable time processing unqualified applicants, as is sometimes the case when fingerprints aren't taken until the potential future Soldier goes to Military Entrance Processing Station, or MEPS.

Generally, the mere mention of an FBI criminal background check has a way of bringing out the truth, said Ronnie Creech, chief, G3 Technical Support Branch USAREC HQ.

"Most of the time, when you have an applicant who's not being completely truthful, when you get to the point where you're ready to put their hand on the machine to get a fingerprint and you tell them you're going to send it to the FBI to retrieve any possible criminal record, chances are, if they have something, they're going to tell you at that point," Creech explained. "And if not, we're going to find out anyway."

Alston, whose center was among the first to receive the device, estimates Live Scan has saved his recruiters about 30 man-hours a week, time now better spent engaging prospects.

"This has allowed us more time to spend in the schools and in communities, given us more face time with the public. When you have time to do that, it generates a more positive [image] for the Army. We counsel [youth] -- even those who don't want to join the Army -- just to give them [some] guidance and direction. Maybe later they'll refer someone to join the Army."

The program is also saving the Army millions of dollars, according to Creech.

"In 2009 USAREC saved around $1 million in one battalion's geographical area in training seat losses. Multiply that across the entire command -- 38 battalions -- and you're talking about millions."

There were a few growing pains early on with the program but nothing major, according to Nick Harrison, division chief for Army Recruiting Information Support System G3 tech support.

"We were learning the best way to build the network, how to store and transmit data to different agencies in support of the recruiters' business practices and operational needs," Harrison said. "We had to stay within the confines of the law and couldn't arbitrarily fingerprint civilians. They had to have the intent to process and enlist. We had to learn all the things we needed to do."

Now that the kinks have been worked out, the remaining 540 stations are scheduled to receive the devices by the end of December, which is a year ahead of schedule.

In addition, the Department of Army last April agreed to pay for the devices as well as the early finger-printing process of all Army applicants. In exchange, DA civilian and contractor job applicants can have their fingerprints processed at a recruiting station near their homes.

The finger-printing process does not remove the requirement for recruiters to screen applicants for moral qualification. Creech emphasizes Live Scan simply provides the tool to reveal moral disqualifications before applicants process through MEPS.