Army Recruiting Command officials said recently that the service is starting to see results from the new recruiting strategy it launched last year.
In October, Army senior leaders pledged to increase recruiting efforts in 22 major cities after the service missed its recruiting goal for the first time since 2005, falling roughly 6,500 recruits short.
The effort has involved senior leaders meeting with city officials, as well as adding hundreds more recruiters to beef up the service's recruiting force -- on the ground and across social media.
Recruiting is now up in 18 of the 22 focus cities, according to a recent Army news release offering Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) figures for April.
"Recruiting is up 27 percent in Minneapolis over this time last year, New York City has improved 19 percent and Baltimore is up 17 percent," according to the release.
Until this year, recruiting success typically seen in the rural South was not shared by the big cities, the release states.
"We're trying to bring a lot of balance to our recruiting effort and focus in on the largest metropolitan areas in the country," Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy said in the release, adding that the effort involves meeting with city officials and educators to help build new relationships.
At a Baltimore meeting, officials opened up all 43 of the city's recreation centers to recruiters, the release states.
"It was a great meeting because it opened doors," Col. Amanda Iden, commander of the Baltimore Recruiting Battalion, said in the release.
In addition to playing basketball with youth, recruiters uploaded the Army's "March2Success" software on computers at the centers, so students could study there for college boards and other entrance exams, the release states.
"It's a tool to teach you how to take tests. ... It focuses on your weaknesses," Iden said in the release.
In addition to increasing its recruiting force by 770 recruiters, the Army has added virtual recruiting teams (VRTs) to each of its 44 recruiting battalions to reach out to potential recruits through social media.
The teams consist of three to six soldiers who work in all types of social media. The VRTs are currently manned at about 80 percent, but they will reach 100 percent by this summer, according to the release.
These VRTs are "force multipliers" for recruiters, Col. James Jensen, director of the USAREC Commander's Initiatives Group, said in the release.
When a potential candidate responds to a social media post and asks a question, the virtual recruiters will initially respond, then pass the prospect off to a neighborhood recruiter, he added.
Recruiting Command has identified 65 different types of neighborhoods, or "segmentations," based on demographic data from the last U.S. census, the release states.
One of the main segmentations in downtown Baltimore is the "Urban Modern Mix," Iden said. Characteristics for people in this segmentation include listening to urban adult contemporary music and having an interest in boxing. Virtual recruiting teams use such data to help target their social media posts, she said.
Despite the progress, recruiting officials say the effort is far from complete.
"While these initiatives go on, this is a plane in flight," Jensen said in the release. "We have to deliver every day. So you've got to be very cognizant of what you're doing and how many ripples in the water you do to the recruiting force."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.