New Programs, Incentives Focused on Boosting Recruiting Efforts
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 11, 2005 The Army is using a variety of programs and incentives to help attract more young men and women into its ranks, according to Curtis Gilroy, DoD's director of accession policy.
Working to recruit 80,000 new members by late September, the Army is putting more recruiters in the field and giving them better tools to do their job, Gilroy said. Service officials are also hoping to boost the number and size of enlistment bonuses and are planning to roll out new advertising efforts that focus on adults who influence young people's decisions regarding military service.
Recruiters are "very, very important" to the overall recruiting effort, Gilroy said. "A uniformed recruiter in the field not only signs up recruits, but provides a statement of the military to the community," he said.
"The recruiter is the single most powerful tool the military has in its recruiting effort," agreed Navy Capt. Chris Arendt, deputy director of the DoD accession policy office. "What they bring is that personal touch, the personality to convey the honor and service of the military." Their effect, he said, "is powerfully strong."
While personal and in-home visits remain critical to the process, particularly among Hispanic prospects, military recruiting is going increasingly high-tech. Laptop computers and cell phones have become critical to recruiters, who frequently work out of their cars rather than offices. And there's been surprising success in "cyber-recruiting" -- each service's use of online chat rooms for would-be recruits to get information about the military.
"Each of the services has recognized that today's generation is a computer-savvy generation and does many things with the Internet," Arendt said. "Each service has reacted to that and is setting up cyber-recruiting efforts."
The Army, the leader among the services in this initiative, has a live chat room where recruiters can answer people's questions and guide them toward the information they need in their decision-making. Potential recruits can enter the chat room in a safe environment, using a pseudonym if they wish, to ask questions or even check information about the military they've received from recruiters or others, Arendt explained.
The Army is also taking steps to beef up the bonuses it offers new recruits.
Bonuses are very important for a variety of reasons, Gilroy said. They entice people to join the military in the first place. "They are also useful in channeling these new recruits into particular occupations that we really need," he said.
Generally jobs that offer the highest bonuses are hard to fill or require higher-level skills. Bonuses also help encourage recruits to sign up for longer terms of service or for specific duty stations, he said.
And in a new initiative being used by the Army, they encourage recruits to begin their duty more quickly after signing their contract. "If you report in one month, you get a certain bonus. If it's in two months, you get a different bonus," Gilroy said. "The longer you delay, the lower the bonus, but if you want to ship right now, the Army will offer a higher bonus for you."
The Army is also reviewing its advertising program and looking at better ways to reach targeted audiences, including "influencers" -- the parents, teachers, coaches and other adults who influence a young person's decision regarding military service.
Reaching this group can be a challenge, Gilroy acknowledged. "Mom and dad aren't too happy seeing their sons and daughters in a conflict," he said, particularly as they hear of soldiers being wounded or killed in combat. "And I think this is weighing heavily on their minds," he added.
There's also an indication that there's less public support for the war in Iraq, Gilroy said, and that could be a factor in why influencers aren't steering young people toward military service as frequently as in the past.
Gilroy said the Army is hopeful these and other efforts being explored will help attract more young people into the Army at a critical time, when it is increasing its end strength by 30,000 members.
The Army's recruiting goal for fiscal 2005 is 80,000 troops -- 3,000 higher than last year's requirement and 6,200 higher than the previous year's.