HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — As the U.S. Army tries to reinvent recruiting after falling short of its goal, the service will “overhaul” how it selects and trains recruiters, senior officials told Army Times.
The service’s undersecretary, Gabe Camarillo, characterized the effort as part of a broader recruiting reform process in a Tuesday media event at an Association of the U.S. Army event. The stakes are high, he acknowledged, given the service missed its fiscal 2022 recruiting goal by about 15,000 new soldiers, leaving it shorthanded.
“We face an unprecedented recruiting challenge in the Army,” Camarillo said. “It took more than one year to get here. It’ll take several years to get out of it.”
He explained the Army is reevaluating how it selects, trains and assigns its recruiting force; some of those changes are already underway.
The service has implemented “interim” curriculum adjustments at its Recruiting and Retention College at Fort Knox, Kentucky — the headquarters of Army Recruiting Command — said Gen. Gary Brito, head of Army Training and Doctrine Command, speaking Tuesday afternoon. Brito’s headquarters oversees Army Recruiting Command.
For now, officials have extended new recruiter training by roughly two weeks. Brito said the extra time includes instruction on sales and negotiation techniques, as well as a “people week” that’s “focused on things that are unique to the recruiter lifestyle [such as] living in a rented house that’s not close to a military installation,” among other practical considerations.
Brito said the interim curriculum shift will buy time for his command’s planners to bring a “dry erase board approach” to bear for a comprehensive overhaul of the recruiting college. He described the move — and today’s moment — as “an opportunity to look at things differently.”
Brito added that the service is implementing “common sense talent management practices” to find better recruiters and match them with roles where they’ll find success.
The command developed a noncommissioned officer special assignment battery to determine whether a soldier has the personality and skills to succeed as a drill sergeant or recruiter, two common paths for the Army’s staff sergeants.
But another step will involve aligning prospective recruiters with geographic areas where they might succeed, or where their community ties could help them achieve their recruiting goals, Brito said.
The ultimate goal is to achieve “a great match of talent, background and connection to the community” for each recruiter, he explained.
Recruiting Command spokesperson Brian McGovern said the course now includes an expanded capstone exercise, where recruiters in training join future station commanders in real-world scenarios connecting with prospective recruits. McGovern characterized the ongoing changes as “decisive action to further revolutionize recruiting efforts.”
The plans were developed in conjunction with a Pentagon-level recruiting and retention task force, Brito added. The task force, led by Army Reserve Maj. Gen. Deborah Kotulich, makes running recommendations to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and the service’s chief of staff.
The service already launched other ideas, including a recruiting referral program and performance bonuses for recruiters.
While efforts to shore up recruiting in the long term remain underway, Wormuth told lawmakers Tuesday that there’s cause for optimism sooner. Appearing before a panel of the House Appropriations Committee, the Army’s top civilian said the service is seeing “positive momentum” on recruiting.
“Our recruiting numbers right now look better than they did this time last year,” Wormuth said, without offering further details.
The secretary cautioned that continued recruitment problems could force the service to lean more on the Army National Guard and Army Reserve — both of which are experiencing end strength shortfalls of their own — or even make force structure cuts to avoid becoming a “hollow Army.”
This story was updated with a statement from Army Recruiting Command.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.