Army Recruiting Command officials announced Monday that the service is expanding its short-term career offerings, though the move comes amid recruiting turmoil caused by a new prescription drug screening system.
A press release said that two-year active duty enlistments are now available for 84 jobs across the force, “ranging from infantry and combat engineers to paralegals and aviation operations specialists.”
Applicants who select the short-term option will also be eligible for bonuses, though they will also have a two-year drilling commitment in the Army Reserve after leaving active duty, the release said. Certain career field are offering $50,000 bonuses currently for longer contracts.
“Many people are apprehensive about long-term commitments right now, so we think having a shorter option will help give them some time to see if the Army fits their life and goals,” said Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, USAREC’s top general.
The Army has periodically offered short-term enlistments, but they’re usually fairly restrictive since the service wants to see return on its training investments. But sometimes, when the force needs to grow or is otherwise struggling to land recruits, the options will expand.
Troops who join for even just two years will earn significant benefits, such as 80% of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill and the Veterans Affairs home loan subsidy.
MROAD and the road forward
The service’s recruiters are also learning to work with a new screening process — the Medical Review of Authoritative Data — that allows officials at entrance processing stations to access systems that provide applicants’ entire prescription histories from authoritative sources, according to the Military Entrance Processing Command’s annual report.
One senior recruiter who spoke with Army Times called MROAD a “disaster” and said in a message that the reviews can add unnecessary procedural hurdles and give applicants more time to reconsider their decision to join. He requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
The recruiter said the reviews “won’t outright stop an enlistment” because “everything that comes up in MROAD SHOULD be disclosed...anyway.”
But the reviews increase friction for young people navigating the complex enlistment process, forcing them in some cases to go gather more medical records even when the system only detects benign prescriptions such as Tylenol.
Asked if those delays can lead an applicant to “get cold feet,” the senior recruiter said: “Exactly.” He wants to see military entrance processing stations implement uniform standards for what MROAD records should require an applicant to go obtain more medical records for review, rather than flagging “all the insignificant shit.”
But USAREC is hopeful that a renewed focus on recruiter accountability through individual quotas — and what it calls “mission modernization” — can help buoy performance despite the new year bringing increased screenings and nearly 1,000 fewer recruiters.
Vereen, the USAREC commander, told Army Times in October that the modernization initiative will also include newer technologies such as “soft phones” that allow recruiters to work the phone from their computers.
The command will also soon resume giving individual recruiters their own assigned geographic recruiting zones.
Military Times Pentagon bureau chief Meghann Myers contributed to this report.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.