Army recruiting is about to head into its busiest time of the year, facing a service-wide shortage of 400 recruiters and a mandate to bring 76,500 new soldiers into the service this year.

Some units are having a tougher time of it than others, according to a memo dated April 18 from the commander of the 5th Recruiting Brigade, announcing 10-hour workdays and requiring several Saturdays a month on the job.

The memo, first obtained by U.S. Army W.T.F.! Moments, turned out to be a draft that was never enacted, according to a U.S. Army Recruiting Command spokeswoman.

“His intention with the memo was to communicate the brigade’s current mission posture and open a dialogue with battalion and company leaders about ways to overcome present recruiting challenges,” Kelli Bland, the USAREC spokeswoman, told Army Times.

The 5th Recruiting Brigade was making less than 80 percent of its ongoing goals as it stared down a mission of 22,000 new recruits for this year, Col. Terrance Huston wrote in the directive to his Joint Base San Antonio, Texas-based brigade.

He then sent a rough copy around to leaders, asking for feedback that would be discussed at an upcoming brigade-wide meeting.

“Plans must be ruthlessly executed,” he wrote of the “prospecting” process, where recruiters engage with the community in a range of events designed to pique interest in enlisting. “We cannot push daily requirements off. We cannot shift weekly requirements into subsequent weeks.”

To combat their slow progress, Huston in the memo extended work hours to 9 a.m. through 7 p.m. on Monday through Thursday, as well as three Saturdays of every four weeks, and four Saturdays every five weeks.

“By making simple adjustments in duty day and work week (many of the team has already planned and/already implemented), there is a potential to enlist 170 additional soldiers per week,” he wrote.

Instead, brigade leaders brought their ideas to an operational update in late April, Bland said, and Huston decided to hold off on the mandatory work week changes in favor of letting company commanders make their own adjustments.

“Based on their plans, the brigade commander agreed to modify the directive to delegate authority to company commanders to determine the need for Saturday work hours,” Bland said.

Huston set a deadline to review the memo in late June, she added, before turning over command to Col. Roman Cantu on May 4.

Cantu has implemented a moratorium on extended work hours while he does a review of brigade policies, Bland said.

Burning out

Army recruiting has a history of a grueling pace with relentless deadlines.

The environment came to a head in 2008, during the height of the war in Iraq, when the Army consistently had to recruit 80,000 new soldiers a year, and when the service investigated a trend of recruiter suicides ― 17 since the Global War on Terror began.

Back then, the Associated Press reported, there were 8,400 recruiters serving. Today, the number is closer to 4,000, as end strength and recruiting tempo have come down since the start of the 2010s.

Today, the Army finds itself in a tough spot, with the pool of young Americans healthy and interested enough to join the Army declining, while it strains to grow the force and fill its open recruiter billets.

Surging recruiter hours is not uncommon when the pace needs a jump-start.

“Commanders have the authority to determine the work hours necessary to accomplish the mission in their specific area of operations,” Bland said.

Army recruiters are struggling to meet 2018 goals, and some units could see longer hours to make up for it. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)
Army recruiters are struggling to meet 2018 goals, and some units could see longer hours to make up for it. (Bebeto Matthews/AP)

The summer and fall are particularly busy times for Army recruiting, she added, but because accessions can’t just drop off in winter and spring, recruiters may have to work longer hours to find prospective soldiers from a smaller pool.

Now that the Army is in the midst of a push to get active end strength up to over 500,000 ― the goal for this year is 483,500 ― there is a push to assign more recruiters to distribute the work load, Lt. Gen. Thomas Seamands, the Army G-1, told Army Times in April.

Meanwhile, units are responsible for keeping their op tempo as predictable as possible and assuring a healthy work-life balance for recruiters.

“Leaders are charged with ensuring they are using resources, to include recruiters’ time and energy, as efficiently and effectively to accomplish the mission as possible,” Bland said. “They are also charged with tracking the health and well-being of their Soldiers to maintain an effective, resilient force.”