Army Recruiting Boost Should Mean More Fort Jackson Soldiers

U.S. Army recruits road march single-file across Fort Jackson, S.C., June 13, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)
U.S. Army recruits road march single-file across Fort Jackson, S.C., June 13, 2015. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar)

The U.S. Army has been authorized by Congress to recruit 7,500 additional soldiers this year -- a hike that should mean more recruits being training at Fort Jackson in 2018.

U.S. Army Recruiting Command will see the largest in-year goal increase in its history, raising the original goal of active duty Army recruits by 6,000 to 68,500. The Army reservists will increase by 1,500.

Many of those new recruits will go through basic training at Fort Jackson, the nation's largest training base, although those levels have yet to be determined.

"It will be a decent-sized chunk," said L.A. Sully, spokeswoman for the Columbia Recruiting Battalion, which includes 214 recruiters throughout South Carolina as well as Asheville, N.C., and Augusta, Ga.

Fort Jackson, which is in the middle of a yearlong celebration of its 100th year of training soldiers, pumps more than $2 billion a year into the midlands economy and accounts for 17,000 jobs locally and nearly 20,000 statewide, according to a study by the University of South Carolina.

Much of that economic impact stems from the families of the nearly 50,000 troops who train there each year when the families come for weekly graduation ceremonies. The families fill hotel rooms and restaurants and crowd the city's attractions.

More recruits will mean more families and more business, particularly for hotels and restaurants in the Jackson Boulevard/Devine Street area, Forest Drive, Garners Ferry Road and downtown.

The recruiting deadline for the new levy is September. Those soldiers will begin training in 2018.

The new, $300 million authorization will help boost the active duty Army, the nation's largest service, to 476,000, up from the previous goal of 460,000. The boost, along with greater retention efforts, also hint at a political reversal of military downsizing since the peak of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Some of it has to do with the change in administration in Washington," said Lt. Col. Robert "Vinnie" Garbarino, commander of the Columbia Recruiting Battalion.

Most of the cut in recent years have affected senior non-commissioned officers and mid-level commissioned officers through attrition, he said.

"The recruiting command stayed fairly consistent through the years," Garbarino said.

The new authorization would provide $200 million for enlistment bonuses and $100 million for marketing, Sully said. Much of the marketing is done at high school events and job fairs, she said.

Many of those new recruits will come to Fort Jackson, which trains 50 percent of the nation's soldiers and 60 percent of its female soldiers, depending on the recruits' Army career choices.

The other training bases are Fort Benning, Ga., which trains infantry soldiers; Fort Sill, Okla., which trainings artillery soldiers; and Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., which trains military police.

In addition to new recruits, Fort Jackson also provides advanced training to another approximately 20,000 troops each year, from chaplains to drill sergeants.

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