Recruiting has a ‘More Cowbell’ Moment
The United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) is facing a pressing need to meet its annual mission after years of missed goals. Let’s face it: more jobs are available with highly competitive pay than a decade ago. The game has changed, and the Army is struggling to keep up. Instead of modernizing its recruiting approach, it stayed the course, which worked up through the Great Recession ending in 2009, when unemployment reached nine percent (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2023). The economy, employment, and worker expectations have changed dramatically in the last decade.
- The Army’s Desperate Need for More Recruits
- The Impact of Redirecting NCOs to Army Recruiting
- Challenges Faced by NCOs in Their New Role
- The Importance of Support and Training for Army Recruiters
- The Potential Effects on the Recruitment Process
- What Lies Ahead for Army Recruiting?
- Conclusion: The Ever-Changing Landscape of Army Recruiting
In a surprising turn of events, the U.S. Army has issued a directive that has surprised hundreds of noncommissioned officers (NCOs). Without any warning, many Soldiers received (not confirmed) an unexpected email ordering them to report to the Army Recruiting and Retention School at Fort Knox, Kentucky. And it doesn’t stop there – hundreds more will join the ranks of this intensive training program between December and February. Allegedly, there is a bonus for those who attend by February 2024 (we cannot confirm this information. This sudden maneuver by the Army is part of an untimely attempt to bolster its recruiting force by a staggering 800 personnel. With the pressure mounting and the need for fresh recruits becoming increasingly urgent, the Army is leaving no stone unturned.
UPDATE: Added 02 NOV 2023 regarding details on the upcoming call for NCOs (U.S. Army Human Resources Command, 2023):
Additionally, the Army is seeking volunteers to attend ARC. The volunteer opportunity is open to sergeants, staff sergeants and sergeants first class who meet eligibility criteria and have been at their current duty station for 12 months. Sergeants must also have one year time in grade.
Eligible Soldiers will have a unique opportunity to use their experiences to positively revolutionize Army recruiting. Those interested in volunteering are directed to contact their career managers at HRC.
Volunteers are eligible to receive an Assignment Incentive Payment, or AIP, of $5,000 if they meet the following criteria:
- Ship to ARC before February 2024 and graduate.
- Successfully complete the Advanced Training Program, or ATP, within the first 120 days of assignment to a recruiting station.
- Receive a satisfactory ATP quality score from the new recruiter NCO board.
- Agree to serve as a detailed recruiter for 36 months.
- Adhere to all duty standards.
All sergeants who complete the course will be promoted to staff sergeant upon graduation. Staff sergeants who complete the course and secure 24 successful accessions within 12 months will be promoted to sergeant first class. To be considered a successful accession a recruit must contract and ship to initial entry training.
Recruiters are critical Army ambassadors who guide young Americans in exploring the many possibilities offered through service to the nation while building the Army of the future.U.S.Army Human Resources Command
But what does this move mean for the NCOs whom the Army abruptly redirected into this new role? And how will it impact the larger recruitment landscape? Let’s delve deeper into this unprecedented situation’s unexpected twists and turns and explore its implications for the Army and aspiring recruits.
We should also note that those that were redirected may not be eligible for the incentives as they technically were ordered (Department of the Army Selected) rather than a volunteer. This makes for a potentially combative environment.
Amidst this whirlwind, one cannot help but question the motives behind such a drastic decision. Is the Army facing a shortage of willing recruiting duty volunteers? Are the existing recruiting efforts falling short of expectations? The answers to these questions lie at the heart of the Army’s determination to make this bold move. However, as the NCOs find themselves thrust into the demanding realm of Army recruitment, numerous uncertainties loom over their heads. How will they adapt to their new responsibilities? Will they receive the necessary support and training required for this critical task?
And most importantly, what impact will this influx of experienced soldiers have on recruitment? As we embark on a journey to unravel the intricacies of these surprising developments, we must prepare ourselves for a tale bound to shed light on the ever-changing landscape of Army recruitment. So tighten your bootstraps and get ready to explore why the Army will summon hundreds of NCOs to the Recruiting and Retention School. This twist has caught many off-guard and left them pondering the future of Army recruiting.
The Army’s Desperate Need for More Recruits
The U.S. Army is currently facing a pressing issue – a shortage of recruits. To address this problem, the Army has taken an unprecedented step by redirecting hundreds of noncommissioned officers (NCOs) to the Army Recruiting School at Fort Knox, Kentucky. This sudden move highlights the Army’s urgency to bolster its recruiting force by 800 personnel before the year ends. The decision to redirect NCOs to recruitment duties stems from the need for experienced soldiers who can effectively communicate the benefits and opportunities of serving in the Army. Unfortunately, many of the junior NCOs eligible may not have the required experience.
The Army needs to evaluate its current cohort of recruiters and determine where the disconnect lies. Our uneducated guess points to the following:
- an antiquated recruiting methodology
- a slow recruitment process that lacks modern automation solutions
- this current piece of news shows the Army continues to throw people and money at problems instead of solving the problem
- lacking the ability to make an informed decision-making process
- lack of a cohesive strategy that is primarily out of touch with the target audience
- an increase in soldiers publicly criticizing the Army and openly expressing dissatisfaction
NCOs have proven their dedication and commitment to their country, making them ideal candidates for this new role. The Army hopes to tap into their firsthand experiences and knowledge of military life by utilizing NCOs in recruitment efforts. They can provide potential recruits with valuable insights into what it means to serve in the armed forces, helping them make informed decisions about joining.
Let’s not forget how tough recruiting can be in todays job market. The Army is not simply competing with local businesses, but national companies, and even sister services. For example, the Air Force announced on Oct. 24 that it will allow recruits as old as 42. This is a new limit and the oldest across all Armed Forces. The only restriction is that older applicants cannot serve in front-line roles, pilots, or combat systems.
Related Article: The Army’s New Recruiting Initiative: Talent Acquisition Specialists
Related Article: The Future of Army Recruiting Needs a Marketing Officer
The Impact of Redirecting NCOs to Army Recruiting
The sudden redirection of NCOs to recruitment duties has sent shockwaves through military ranks and civilian communities. It signifies a significant shift in priorities within the Army. It raises questions about its ability to attract recruits and the impact of development on the NCOs ordered onto recruiting duty. On one hand, having experienced soldiers actively involved in recruitment can be seen as a positive development. Their expertise and credibility can inspire confidence in potential recruits who may be hesitant about joining.
Additionally, NCOs possess valuable leadership skills that can be instrumental in guiding aspiring soldiers through the enlistment process. However, there are concerns that this redirection may deplete resources within other areas of military operations where these NCOs were previously assigned. Not all the NCOs charged with this duty are capable recruiters. Just like not every player can become a successful coach. The loss of experienced personnel from critical roles could potentially impact the overall readiness, and the lack of developmental time leads to career ineffectiveness across the Army.
We should also mention that this order into Army recruiting highlights a system of experienced Army Recruiters who have not performed. Who is at fault? The officers in USAREC are not recruiting or marketing officers, with many serving their first and only tour in USAREC in a position of influence. The Recruiting Pre-Command Course for Battalion and Brigade Commanders is only two weeks (Wikipedia, 2023). The Army directs officers who have spent over a decade committed to their craft to command an organization focused solely on marketing and sales that can span a significant metropolitan area to an entire region. No matter that they have soldiered for their whole career, they suddenly must moderate their speech and attitude to engage the public, build relationships, and build community trust. Two weeks.
In comparison, an officer a year in the Special Forces pipeline training before arriving at their first assignment. Modifying behaviors and building the requisite skills takes time, resources, and proper training.
But, yeah, two weeks. Sure, why not?!
Also, the Recruiting Company Commander and First Sergeant Course is three weeks. Again, we are not the most informed, but this course does not seem like enough for a Captain (CPT) to transition from their primary branch to understanding the nuances of recruiting and marketing. With a command typically lasting 12 months, many Officers will not achieve peak effectiveness before departing for their next assignment.
Army Recruiting Challenges Faced by NCOs in their New Role
While NCOs are undoubtedly skilled and experienced in military operations, transitioning to a recruitment role presents challenges. The responsibilities and expectations placed on them differ significantly from their previous assignments. One of the primary challenges NCOs face is adapting to a more sales-oriented approach. They must learn how to effectively market the benefits of joining the Army to potential recruits, highlighting career opportunities, educational benefits, and personal growth prospects. These skills require a shift in mindset for many NCOs who may not have had prior experience in sales or marketing.
Furthermore, NCOs must navigate through bureaucratic processes involved in recruitment, such as paperwork, background checks, and medical screenings. These administrative tasks can be time-consuming and may hinder their ability to engage directly with potential recruits. Finally, the systems used by USAREC may present a challenge to soldiers who are not technically savvy.
Other challenges these soldiers may face:
- A fast flash-to-bang time gives no time for married soldiers to make accommodations
- Childcare becomes a concern
- Spouses with jobs or established support networks will face significant issues
- If the Army has thought about the above, then they are targeting single soldiers
- If this recruiter surge positions the Army to have a successful spring and summer, will there be a repeat, but with Drill Sergeants?
- Genesis – maybe we misspelled it
- Poor quality of life
- Increasing competition from other branches of the military
- Private sector employers who offer lucrative opportunities
- Societal attitudes towards military service and the perception of the Army as a career choice can also pose obstacles in attracting potential recruits
The Importance of Support and Training for Army Recruiters
For NCOs to succeed in their new recruitment roles, they must receive adequate support and training. The Army must invest resources into comprehensive training programs that equip these soldiers with the necessary skills to excel as recruiters. This training should include instruction on effective communication techniques, marketing strategies tailored to different demographics, and an understanding of the unique selling points of Army service. Additionally, ongoing support from experienced recruiters can help NCOs navigate challenges they may encounter during their transition period.
The Potential Effects on the Recruitment Process
THE GOOD: The influx of experienced soldiers into recruitment roles has the potential to reshape the entire recruitment process. With their firsthand knowledge and relatability, NCOs may be able to connect with potential recruits on a deeper level than traditional recruiters. Moreover, the presence of NCOs in recruitment centers and events may enhance the credibility and trustworthiness of the Army’s messaging. Their personal stories and experiences can resonate with potential recruits, making them more likely to consider joining seriously. However, it is crucial to monitor the long-term effects of this redirection. If the Army permanently assigns these soldiers to recruitment duties, it could create a gap in experienced leadership within other areas of military operations. Striking a balance between recruitment needs and maintaining operational readiness will be crucial for the Army moving forward.
THE BAD: Ask any soldier who was on a C-130 heading home from a year in Iraq only to arrive back in Iraq due to a last-minute mission change. They can tell you how much euphoria and joy they felt when the ramp came down. The Army struggles to attract talent, and this directive seems like an ill-informed misstep. The Army needs positive public relations internally and externally. A quick look on social media indicates disappointment with this decision.
THE UGLY: The Army redirected many junior officers to USAREC as Gold Bar Recruiters. With minimal experience in the Army and no recruiting experience, it is difficult to understand the return on investment. Additionally, these junior officers need exposure in the career field to become the informed and competent professionals that the Army needs. Recruiting has never carried positive sentiment on an officer’s record below a Lieutenant Colonel (LTC). The surge in NCOs does not answer the mail on what they are doing differently than the current cohort of Army Recruiters, known as 79R. They are also exposed to losing out on quality development. No unit should have a Staff Sergeant (SSG) or potential Squad Leader who has served no time as a Team Leader (TL).
What Lies Ahead for Army Recruiting?
The sudden redirection of NCOs to recruitment duties indicates that the Army recognizes the urgency of addressing its recruiting challenges. However, it also highlights the ever-changing landscape of Army recruitment and the lack of strategy beyond boosting the workforce. The success or failure of this strategy will determine future approaches to recruiting. If redirecting NCOs proves ineffective in attracting recruits, it may only exasperate the current failings of Army recruitment efforts. Additionally, these short-term recruiting initiatives only provide more challenges that may not bring about the desired results; senior leaders must flesh out alternative strategies, make a plan, secure resources, and have a clear goal before loading the plane with troops. Ultimately, the outcome will depend on various factors, such as the quality and effectiveness of NCO training programs, ongoing support from experienced recruiters, and adaptability within the larger military structure.
Three points of contention with this course of action:
- The last-minute call to action seems to highlight a lack of self-awareness. The Army is having difficulty convincing civilians to join, and this cobbled-together request publicizes some of the disorganization, lack of communication, and internal angst soldiers experience.
- Is throwing more soldiers at the problem the solution?
- How does this stop-gap measure tie into the potential development and deployment of the Talent Acquisition Specialists or 42T and what about the enlisted training corps program?
Conclusion: The Ever-Changing Landscape of Army Recruiting
The unexpected decision to redirect hundreds of NCOs to Army Recruiting School has sparked curiosity and concern within military circles. Throwing money and personnel at the problem rarely works and is not sustainable. This decision reflects the pressing need for more recruits in an increasingly competitive market. This move presents an opportunity for USAREC to deploy experienced soldiers, leveraging their knowledge and skills towards attracting new talent into the Army. However, it also poses challenges that must be addressed through proper support, training, transparency, and a strategic plan that clearly outlines the goals of the Army recruiting mission. As we witness this unprecedented development unfold, the Army is willing to explore new avenues to meet its recruitment goals, no matter how haphazardly.
The Army’s actions today will shape the recruitment efforts of tomorrow. We hope the outcomes of this redirection and the lessons learned along the way will move the Army closer to its goal while taking care of the soldiers that make it happen.
Sources / Credit
- Photo Credit: U.S. Army
- U.S. Army Human Resources Command. (2023, November 2). US Army seeks volunteers to become recruiters. Retrieved from DVIDS: https://www.dvidshub.net/news/457058/us-army-seeks-volunteers-become-recruiters.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2023, October 30). Labor Force Statistics from the Current Population Survey. Retrieved from U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: https://www.bls.gov/cps/ Wikipedia. (2023, September 27).
- Wikipedia. (2023, September 27). United States Army Recruiting and Retention College. Retrieved from Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Recruiting_and_Retention_College#:~:text=The%20Recruiting%20Pre%2DCommand%20Course,and%20functions%20of%20Army%20recruiting.