Army Has No Plans to Drop Recruiting Standards
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 9, 2005 The Army is looking for the best in its prospective recruits and won't let standards slip as it fills its ranks, the top general for Army recruiting and retention said today during an interview on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal."
Lt. Gen. Robert L. Van Antwerp, who heads the Army Accessions Command, dismissed allegations that a recent spike in recruits who score lowest in military entrance tests and an increase in those without high school diplomas represents a watering down of the force.
Twelve percent of the Army's October recruits, many of them from the Delayed Entry Program pool, were so-called "Category 4" recruits, whose entrance test scores are the lowest the Army will accept.
Van Antwerp said these accessions tend to be higher than average early in the fiscal year, but that they will even out over the rest of the year. Category 4 recruits will represent less than 4 percent of the Army's recruits by the year's end, he said.
"Based on what we brought in in October, it's high," Van Antwerp said. "But based on the annual mission (through Sept. 30, 2006), we will be well under 4 percent."
Similarly, Van Antwerp said, the Army won't allow more than 10 percent of its recruits to have general equivalency diplomas rather than high school diplomas.
Only about one-quarter of the 17- to 24-year-olds who make up the Army's prime recruiting market are eligible to enlist; a variety of factors, including education, health, weight, morality and legal issues, disqualify many prospects. Despite this recruiting environment, Van Antwerp said he's encouraged by the recent upswing in recruitment.
"Army recruiting is going very well right now," Van Antwerp said. August represented the Army's best recruiting months since July 2001, and the Army exceeded its recruiting missions for both September and October, he said.
"So we are off to a great start," Van Antwerp said.
These recruiting successes are critical as the Army works toward building a force capable of putting 355,000 operational soldiers in the field, he said. The ultimate goal, Van Antwerp said, is to be able to put "the right soldier in the right unit at the right time, trained to standards."
Educational incentives and recruiting bonuses are a big help in recruiting members, but patriotism remains the biggest draw, Van Antwerp said. That sense of patriotism is evident in the troops who join the military, all recognizing that they are likely to be required to deploy in support of the war on terror, he said.
It's also a big part of what Van Antwerp said led him to encourage his own three sons -- all who are serving or have served in the Middle East -- to join the military. "I didn't say, 'You have to come into the Army,'" he said. "But I did strongly encourage them to serve and serve early in their life so they get that sense of what it is like to do something for someone else that makes a difference."
Once soldiers get a taste of that experience, they frequently want to stay in the military, Van Antwerp said. The Army exceeded its fiscal 2005 retention goal by more than 5,000, with more than 69,000 soldiers re-enlisting, he said.
The re-enlistment bonus "is a factor, but the major factor is the team," Van Antwerp said. "It's what happens when you get into the Army. It's being part of something that's very significant."