Army recruiters are having their assignments involuntarily extended for months amid a service-wide struggle to find new recruits to fill gaps in the ranks.
In an internal memo in early June to recruiters reviewed by Military.com, U.S. Army Recruiting Command says it cannot continue its mission to recruit 60,000 new active-duty soldiers by October, the end of the fiscal year, without involuntarily extending recruiters' assignments.
As of Tuesday, the service had selected 267 "high performing" recruiters to have their assignments involuntarily extended, according to Brian McGovern, a command spokesperson. Typically, a noncommissioned officer who elects to be a recruiter will have the assignment for roughly three years. In total, there are 5,319 active-duty Army recruiters.
"Based on the current challenges we face, the recruiting mission for Fiscal Year 2022 led to the decision to extend selected Recruiting NCOs through both the conclusion of the Fiscal Year 2022 mission and into the initial months of the Fiscal Year 2023 mission, in order to develop momentum going into the next accessions mission cycle," McGovern said in a statement to Military.com.
All service branches are facing an uphill battle to recruit new talent due to a combination of a hyper-competitive civilian job market and the Defense Department struggling to pitch Gen Z on joining. On top of those hurdles, only about one-quarter of young Americans are even eligible to serve, mostly due to widespread obesity and minor criminal infractions.
The Army has recently been growing its advertising presence on BuzzFeed, emulating the site's signature style for quizzes as recruiting efforts. It has also continued building its presence on Facebook. However, BuzzFeed is largely associated with millennial culture, while Facebook skews older and is largely associated with Generation X and Baby Boomers, much older than the average military recruit. Meanwhile, Gen Z has flocked to TikTok, which has been banned from government-issued phones due to security concerns tied to its Chinese ownership.
There are some outlier examples of soldiers still using the service, including the South Dakota National Guard, which is known for its irreverent, comedic posts about military life and recruitment pitches.
To learn how to better reach a younger crowd, Army officials planned an event with online influencers, most of whom have modest followings, on Saturday in the Washington, D.C., area, according to an internal schedule obtained by Military.com. Those influencers are mostly from the fitness community, and they're set to meet with public affairs officials and key leaders including Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston on how the force can better communicate online.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.