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  • Recruiters raise bar as drawdown nears

    Army gets pickier, but doctors, priests, dentists in demand
    By Michelle Tan - Staff writer
    Posted : Monday Dec 5, 2011 7:16:02 EST

    Next year’s Army recruits will be smarter, cleaner, fitter — and fewer. As the Army moves toward a 49,000-soldier drawdown, Recruiting Command has become much pickier: fewer waivers, fewer recruits who score poorly on aptitude tests — and practically no one who’s been in trouble.

    But if you’re a doctor, dentist, a native language speaker or a Catholic chaplain, you can write your own ticket.

    “You have to aspire to come into the Army today,” said Maj. Gen. David Mann, commanding general of Recruiting Command. “You’ve got to complete high school. You’ve got to be physically fit, and you’ve got to stay out of trouble and show a genuine desire to join the Army. It’s not a foregone conclusion or a last resort.”

    In fiscal 2011, the Army hit its goals and recruited 64,019 new active-duty soldiers and 19,998 for the Army Reserve. The goals for the year were 64,000 and 19,320, respectively.

    Of those soldiers, 98.7 percent were high school graduates and only 0.32 percent achieved Category IV scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery.

    Recruits with Cat IV scores are those who score in the 15th to 30th percentile on the ASVAB; the Defense Department allows for up to 4 percent of recruits with these scores.

    Most of the recruits with Cat IV scores had a specific skill set, such as language, Mann said.

    Misconduct waivers also dropped significantly, Mann said.

    In fiscal 2012, the Army hopes to recruit 58,000 new soldiers for the active force and 21,320 for the Army Reserve.

    “Even though this year we’re looking at 58,000 in the active Army … I think you’re going to see somewhat of a plateau,” Mann said. “It’ll be somewhere around 62,000 for the Army. I don’t see a significant change in the mission in the next three to five years.”

    Mann said Recruiting Command is looking at ways to be more efficient in light of the budget crisis, but he also is confident he will receive the resources he needs.

    “The Army recognizes the importance of maintaining a strong, robust recruiting force,” Mann said.

    Other challenges include education and obesity, he said.

    “Right now, in the 17-24 year group, 23 percent fully qualify to join the Army today,” he said. “That, coupled with the obesity challenges we have, among 12- to 19-year-olds, about one in five of that category is considered overweight or obese.”

    Last year, to achieve the Army’s goal of 64,000 new soldiers, recruiters screened more than 400,000 recruits.

    To combat some of those challenges, Army recruiters are going back into high schools.

    “The Army is making an all-out effort to partner with educators to help keep kids in school,” Mann said. “That’s a top priority, regardless of whether they come into the Army.”

    Across the country, recruiters are linking up with local educators to find ways to connect with kids in areas such as leadership, mentoring and tutoring, Mann said.

    “In the past, the [recruiting] mission was a little more of a challenge and we were focused on folks who had already graduated and to a lesser extent to the schools,” he said. “[This is] just a way for the Army to give back to America, frankly.”

    The Army also is focusing its efforts on recruiting medical professionals, Mann said.

    Recruiters are visiting medical schools and talking to students about issues such as loan repayment and Army life to try and encourage them to consider the Army, he said. In particular, the Army is seeking dentists and general practice doctors, he said.

    “We have made a lot of improvements in this area, but we still have a ways to go to really go after a lot of those medical skills that, quite frankly, there’s a shortage across the country,” he said.

    Another focus area is Catholic chaplains, Mann said.

    “Across the world, there is a shortage of priests, so we’re competing with the civilian sector,” he said.

    The Army’s current recruiting success has allowed it to be more targeted in its recruiting, Mann said.

    “Now that we’re doing so well with the volume, it gives us the flexibility to focus on the precision,” he said. “What the Army is doing is we’re going back and looking at our requirements to make sure we have accurately captured what our requirements are to make sure we’re going after the right mission.”