Army to Target 22 Cities, Add 700 Recruiters to Boost Enlistments

 Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, who served as the first senior enlisted advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, congratulates an Army recruiter during a visit to Wichita, Kan. (US Army photo/Cherie A. Thurlby)
Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, who served as the first senior enlisted advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, congratulates an Army recruiter during a visit to Wichita, Kan. (US Army photo/Cherie A. Thurlby)

The Army is targeting 22 cities and adding 700 recruiters to reverse the decline in enlistments this year, officials said Tuesday.

The Army has identified 22 cities in the U.S. where the service has had difficulty attracting recruits that will now get more attention, said Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of the Army's Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), who has taken on additional duty as senior official for accessions.

Townsend did not name the cities but said they are outside the traditional areas in which Army recruiting has been strong, including the southeast and southwest.

"We're going to have to succeed in those areas," he said.

The service also will be "filling out its recruiting team" by bringing on 700 more recruiters, Townsend said in a panel discussion on "Building America's Army" at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual meeting and exposition.

Command Sgt. Maj. Timothy Guden, Townsend's top enlisted aide at TRADOC, said the Army is looking at asking current recruiters who have been successful in the role to stay on for an additional year in that job, as well as considering "some kind of incentive pay" to attract more soldiers into recruiting. In addition, the service will ask former recruiters who are still on active duty in other fields "if they want to come back and continue recruiting."

If necessary, the Army would also consider "forcing folks to stay on in recruiting or pull them from the operational force" to add recruiters, Guden said, adding that service officials do not want to pursue that option if they can avoid it.

The focus on recruiting in areas the Army traditionally has ignored and the effort to add recruiters are a response to the shortfall in enlistments this year. Despite adding 70,000 troops to the force, the Army fell 6,500 short of its recruiting goal.

In addition to targeting 22 cities and adding 700 recruiters, Townsend said the service's advertising and marketing campaigns will be overhauled in the coming weeks.

"The marketing and advertising efforts have gone astray, just off the rails," he said.

Marshall Williams, acting assistant secretary of the Army, said the booming economy and competition from civilian employers contributed to the enlistment shortfall.

He referenced the vast exhibit hall, where defense contractors showed off their wares on the floors below as the panel discussion was held at the Washington Convention Center.

"Therein lies the rub," Williams said. "We're in a battle for talent."

In a question-and-answer session, he was asked whether the Army is considering scrapping the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test to ease the enlistment process. Williams said results from using ASVAB have been "really good."

"Right now, we're keeping it because we haven't found anything better," he said.

Army recruiters will also make more use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media, said Maj. Gen. John Evans, commander of Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, Kentucky.

"We have not been very good in using social space," he said.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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