Army recruits who don’t meet the service’s physical fitness or academic standards will be placed in a training program for up to 90 days before they begin boot camp.
The Future Soldier Preparatory Course pilot program is set to start in early August at Fort Jackson, South Carolina — one of five Army basic combat training locations.
Army officials said they have already identified about 2,000 applicants who may be eligible to participate in the course.
“The Future Soldier Prep Course allows recruits, who meet all other qualifications for enlistment, a path to serve,” Gen. Paul E. Funk II, commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, said in a statement. “The young men and women who will participate in this pilot have the desire to improve themselves and want to honorably serve their country.”
The boot camp prep course is a response to what the Pentagon has said is the most challenging recruiting environment since the start of the all-volunteer force in 1973.
The percentage of those who meet basic enlistment standards has decreased markedly over the past four decades, officials said.
Only 23% of young Americans fully meet the Army’s eligibility requirements, officials said.
“The effects of the COVID pandemic over the past two years have exacerbated barriers to enlistment for many young Americans,” Army officials said.
The pilot program will provide focused academic and fitness instruction to help recruits meet the service’s desired accession standards for body fat composition and academic test performance.
“We have to acknowledge that society has changed and help our youth improve so they can benefit from the training and opportunities that Army service provides,” Gen. Funk said.
The recruits in the prep course will be tested every three weeks to determine if they meet the Army’s desired accession standards and are able to ship out to basic training, officials said.