100 Soldiers Awarded Recruiting Ribbon as Army Struggles to Find New Recruits

Army infantry recruits t march to the confidence course on Fort Benning.
Army infantry recruits with the 2nd Battalion, 58th Infantry Regiment march to the confidence course on Fort Benning, Georgia, March 29, 2023. (U.S. Army photo by Christopher Hurd)

More than 100 soldiers have earned the Army's new recruiting award as the service leans on existing troops to bring enlistees into the ranks and help fill gaps amid a historic recruiting slump.

The Army recruiting ribbon has been given out to 104 soldiers, according to internal service documents reviewed by Military.com. In addition to the awards, at least 58 soldiers have been promoted as part of a new policy aimed at motivating troops to pitch military service to their community.

Military.com was first to report on the new medal, introduced in January, and the first recipients were awarded in April. Similar to some existing Army National Guard programs, the ribbon is given to soldiers who help recruit someone into the service. Soldiers can earn the award up to four times.

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In addition to the new chest candy, junior enlisted troops also earn a promotion for bringing in a new recruit.

It's unlikely the recruiting ribbon or recruiting incentive had a significant impact on the number of soldiers who brought new people into the ranks. However, the totals are an indication of the influence existing troops have in pitching the public on enlisting.

Two soldiers were awarded the ribbon twice: Sgt. Calvin Remolino, a unit supply specialist with the 27th Military Police Company, 759th Military Police Battalion, at Fort Carson, Colorado; and Pvt. Angelina Baker, who is currently in Advanced Individual Training, or AIT, at Fort Gregg-Adams, Virginia, formally known as Fort Lee. 

Earlier this month, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told lawmakers she does not expect the service to hit its recruiting goal this year, marking the second year in a row the Army has failed to make its numbers.

Last year, the service was short 15,000 soldiers of its goal of bringing in 60,000 new troops. This year, senior leaders had an even more ambitious goal of 65,000 recruits.

Most other military branches are also at risk of missing their recruiting goals, with the exception of the Space Force, the smallest service and one that has largely relied on transfers from the Air Force to build its ranks.

Army leaders, including Wormuth, have said that part of the recruiting strategy is leaning on existing soldiers to "tell the Army story" and tout the benefits of service to their friends and community. However, the latest data on the number of the awards suggests that effort will struggle to even scratch at the margins of the recruiting crisis.

The Army has had a tough time courting Gen Z. The service cannot directly advertise on TikTok, where young Americans are easiest to reach, due to a federal ban on using the Chinese app amid cybersecurity concerns.

But some data from the Pentagon suggests that young Americans are not eager to leave their hometowns and are concerned about dying in combat. The reluctance to enlist may also have to do with military issues widely reported in the media, such as sexual assault, sexual harassment and the effects service can have on mental health.

At the heart of the recruiting issue is the lack of qualified young Americans to serve. A rampant obesity crisis automatically disqualifies a significant portion of 17 to 24 year olds, with 20% of that age group being obese, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Meanwhile, the Army has arguably boosted physical fitness standards with the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, which is broadly seen as a much more complicated and comprehensive measurement of athletic ability than its predecessor.

Applicants also have issues passing the service's SAT-style entrance exam.

Previously, about two-thirds of applicants could qualify for a job in the Army. But in recent years, only about one-third of test takers score high enough, Gen. James McConville, the Army's top officer, told Military.com last year.

Soldiers are increasingly tasked to operate more complicated technology. The service is also pushing noncommissioned officers toward academic writing, attending college and other professional development, as well as growing their communications skills -- areas that in the past were mainly expected of officers.

There is also Military Health System Genesis, a new electronic health record system, which gives the military unprecedented access to an applicant's medical and mental health background during the recruiting process -- especially for recruits from military families who received prior military medical care.

Previously, minor health issues were generally overlooked by recruiters during the enlistment process, for they could cause significant snags and possibly terminate an applicant's eligibility. But recruiters and parents have told Military.com that years-old injuries or prescriptions have also derailed enlistments.

Editor's note: This story has been updated to give unit information for Remolino and Baker.

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon

Related: Army Expects to Miss Its Recruiting Goal Again This Year

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