By Robyn Baer, Fort Sill CannoneerMarch 20, 2008
FORT SILL, Okla. -- The sergeant major for the deputy chief of staff for personnel, Department of the Army, spoke to noncommissioned officers from across post March 13 at Snow Hall.
Sgt. Maj. Michael Croom updated NCOs on changes and challenges the Army is facing, both now with recruiting and in the future with retention.
Command Sgt. Maj. Gary Bronson, command sergeant major for the U.S. Army Field Artillery School, invited Croom to speak and said there are many new things going on in the Army right now, and the rumors about them are proliferate.
"People hear these rumors from a lot of different avenues," Bronson said. "We had the opportunity to get Sergeant Major Croom down here. I just thought that would be a great opportunity for Soldiers to actually hear about Army changes from one of the Army leaders to dispel all the myths and all the rumors about all the initiatives going on in the Army right now."
He said leaders who have correct information can better inform their Soldiers and help them make important decisions. "From pay to retention to getting new Soldiers in the Army, there are a host of new changes being initiated that Soldiers should know about to help them make important and tough decisions," Bronson said.
A large part of the Army's transformation relates to the human dimension, the human part of transformation, and that means manning a growing military.
"We are growing the Army; we're growing towards 547,400 by Fiscal Year 2010 from 482,400 in 2003 when the war first started," Croom said.
To support the growing force, the Army has three goals recruit the force, train the force and retain the force to maintain a volunteer Army.
Croom said that entails keeping the recruiting command manned with a number of qualified recruiters and keeping Training and Doctrine Command manned with a number of qualified drill sergeants.
"Recruiting is the secretary of the Army's primary responsibility," he said. "In order to do that it takes a lot of recruiters. That's where today's NCOs come in. With all three components we have about 13,000 recruiters across the United States. We have about 6,000 on active duty, 4,800 in the National Guard, and the rest are in the Reserve component or are contractors. When recruiters finish their tour of duty, the Army relies on other NCOs to replace them."
Challenges recruiters face today are daunting, but Croom said the Army is still meeting its recruiting goals. To recruit the 171,000 people the Army needs to man its formations, the Army has to know what the demographics and the population of the United States is, where to recruit from, and what the behaviors of society are, Croom explained.
"There are two main challenges," he said. "Only one percent of America wears the cloth, the uniform that we wear. The other is the demographics of today's youth. Eighty-nine point one million households are under single-parent leadership. Only 33 percent of the males in the United States will support sending their sons or daughters into the military, and only 25 percent of women will."
Additionally, there are serious challenges with the demographics of the youth between 17 and 24 in the United States, Croom added.
"We use the 70-50-30 rule. Seventy percent of the youth in poverty in the United States won't graduate from high school. Fifty percent of minorities won't graduate from high school, and 30 percent of youth overall in the United States won't graduate from high school.
"Only three out of 10 youth between 17 and 24 in most categories are eligible to come in the military," he added.
Conduct and obesity are two factors keeping youth from being eligible for military service. Two out of 10 males are obese, and four out of 10 women are obese in today's society.
"So, morally, ethically and criminally, it eliminates a lot of youth from meeting qualifications to come in the Army, Air Force, Marines or Navy.
"When you face those demographics, and only three out of 10 folks are eligible between the ages of 17 to 24, when you face those types of demographics and you have to recruit, to give you combat power to fight, to train and sustain America's Army, those are tremendous challenges that the secretary of the Army and the chief of staff of the Army face for America's volunteer force," Croom emphasized.
Competing with other military services and the corporate world increases the challenge of recruiting.
"When you look at the youth from 17 to 24, you start out with about 30 million, and then when you put the recruiting criteria we use in DoD against those youth, you end up with 2.2 million who are eligible to come in the military. So now you're talking about all of DoD the Marine Corps, the Air Force, the Army, the Navy, and the Coast Guard plus Burger King, Home Depot, Wal-Mart, everybody else is trying to recruit this 2.2 million people. So you can see the challenge that Recruiting Command has with recruiting, or the challenge we have trying to get your formations filled with America's youth," Croom said.
To help the Army meet recruiting challenges, many former recruiters are being called back to locations across the U.S. on temporary duty.
"We know we're going to be hurting a little at Fort Sill because of the initiative they have to call back former recruiters to go back out in the field and help with the recruitment mission," Bronson said. "We're trying to grow the Army to help support the mission. This is just one of the initiatives to continue to meet that goal."
Other challenges the Army faces fall into the "train the force" category.
Croom said the attrition rate for Soldiers in the first 0-6 months and first-term attrition is down right now, which marks progress for the Army.
"It's very low," he said. "That's another mark that TRADOC and the Army leadership constantly look at, the attrition and training base, to make sure we modify rules and policies and behaviors to give Soldiers opportunities to stay with the team."
Retaining the force is just as important.
Bronson said he knows the Army is meeting re-enlistment and retention goals, but he thinks the Army can go beyond that.
"We still have a number of good people getting out," he commented. "We need to continue to try to retain the good Soldiers. I think it would make it just that much easier on the other end as they try to get new Soldiers in the Army."
Croom said the Army is also asking important questions like, "What do we need to do to retain mid-grade officers and mid-grade noncommissioned officers, not only now, but in the future' What happens after the war stops' What do we do to incentivize and retain mid-grade NCOs and officers'"
The answer to these questions comes with a price. Croom said the Army is paying a record amount of money to keep quality Soldiers. But retaining Soldiers doesn't always equate to money. It often means just taking care of Soldiers and their families.
"The human resources part of the Army is driving Army transformation, but we can't do it without you," Croom said. "So when we talk about recruiting, retention and manning the Army, families, retirees, all of those things, that's you. That's your family; that's you when you take the uniform off and retire; that's your children; that's your benefits. All these things, that's what we're working for here along with (Human Resources Command)."
HRC is always looking towards the future.
"The Soldier is always the centerpiece of the formation, but we have to have the big strategic policies and vision around that Soldier to make sure that we are not only taking care of the Soldier today, but we're looking out 10, 15 years in the future to take care of the future Soldiers who we'll need to support and defend the United States," Croom said.