A top Army official said that although the service has met its overall goals for recruitment this fiscal year, the process has been difficult and the number of advance recruits for next year is at historic lows.
Gen. William S. Wallace, head of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., told reporters at the Pentagon yesterday that the Army's delayed-entry program — geared mainly to allow high school students older than 17 to finish their degree while gaining rank — is at 7,000 recruits.
"Seven thousand delayed entry is historically the lowest delayed-entry pool that we've had ... since the start of the volunteer Army," Gen. Wallace said. "So that is of concern to us because the delayed-entry program gives us guaranteed enlistees to meet our goal throughout the year."
Gen. Wallace said that despite the drop in recruitment levels, the U.S. Army reached its overall goal for the 2006-07 fiscal year with 80,410 new soldiers.
Last year, the Army recruited almost 11,000 new soldiers through the delayed-entry program. In 2005, those recruitment numbers were at 9,600, Gen. Wallace added.
"That's not to suggest we won't meet our goals, but it's going to be another tough recruiting year," he said. "We're up to task, I believe, with the continued support of Congress and the incentives."
After having met its goals, the Army stopped counting recruits on Sept. 29, two weeks later than it did last year, Gen. Wallace said.
Another challenge facing the Army is the significant loss of captains and majors, many of whom have had numerous tours of duties to combat zones and long separations from their families. Gen. Wallace called the loss number among these officer ranks a serious concern that his command is addressing.
This year, the shortage of captains and majors is reportedly nearing 3,000. The Army began offering bonuses of up to $35,000 if these officers agree to remain on duty for an additional three years. Other incentives include monetary assistance with graduate school and an assignment of choice.
New recruits will face an extra week of basic training. Beginning tomorrow, basic combat training will expand from nine to 10 weeks, in a pilot program to run until the end of March. After that, the Army will resume nine-week basic combat training for the rest of the fiscal year. In 2009, the Army will "exclusively" adopt the 10-week basic training program, Gen. Wallace said.
"We want to make sure that what we are doing is exactly right for the soldiers," he said. "The feedback that I've gotten ... uniformly, from drill sergeants, is they are confident they are training the right tasks, they are confident they are training those tasks to standard, but they need a little bit more time to make sure those very critical tasks are trained to a degree of mastery that they aren't able to get at in nine weeks."