We live in strange times. Looking at Army recruiting videos on YouTube, I noticed that some were weeks old and had only a few hundred views. I’m talking between four and six hundred, And this was the official US Army Recruiting channel, not some weird knockoff (not that anyone would want to knock it off). A quick search revealed that a cat playing the piano garnered more than 1.2 views in only a bit more time.

Piano Cat 1 : US Army 0

Just as they are falling short of recruiting video views, The United States Army is falling way short of signing up actual recruits. According to the Associated Press, the Army missed its recruiting mark by about 15,000 soldiers. That’s a 25% shortfall. To make matters worse, for the Army, at least, they are the only service that didn’t meet its recruiting goals this year. And some of the other branches made it only by the skin of their teeth. On the other end of the spectrum, Space Force, says Lt. Gen. Bradley Saltzman in AirForce Times, didn’t face the same challenges. He said the service, which only has about 8,400 guardians (that’s what they call themselves), has “more volunteers than we have spots to fill.”  

New recruits take the oath
The latest batch of US Army recruits takes their oath. Image credit: US Army War College

The folks at the US Army War College remind us that “recruiting is critical for sustaining an all-volunteer force” and that under US Federal Code Title 10, “each service performs its own recruiting function.” In other words, if the Army fails to meet its goals, they have no one else to blame. The official statement made by Army Secretary Christine Wormuth, as reported by the Associated Press, is as follows:

“In the Army’s most challenging recruiting year since the start of the all-volunteer force, we will only achieve 75% of our fiscal year 22 recruiting goal.”

The Secretary continued, “The Army will maintain its readiness and meet all our national security requirements. If recruiting challenges persist, we will draw on the Guard and Reserve to augment active-duty forces and may need to trim our force structure.”

Ouch. I can tell from experience that people who join the Guard and Reserve do so because they DO NOT want to be on active duty. Pulling them from part-time duty to full-time active status would almost be like conscription from within our own ranks. I know what some of you may be thinking: we already do that when we send Guard and Reserve units to war. Yes, we do, but that’s how the system was designed to work, and those soldiers joining the Guard and Reserves know that having their unit activated for war is a possibility. To have part-time soldiers be moved to active duty status just because the service failed to meet its recruiting goals… that’s a different beast altogether. That’s not what they signed up for.

New Army Recruits hold their belongings
New Army recruits holding all of their worldly belongings tight before Yellow Phase (weeks one and two) of Basic Combat Training. Image credit: go.army.com

The US Army will be fielding one of the smallest forces, at a cap of 473,000 troops, since the beginning of World War II. There are two ways of looking at that: lean and mean…or small. It’s all a matter of perspective, and I refuse to make a sophomoric “size doesn’t matter” comment at this point.

The Army wanted to have 60,000 recruits by the beginning of the fiscal year, October 1st. They managed to snag about 45,000. And that is with up to $50,000 sign-on bonuses. Those big bucks are set aside for active duty recruits, but the Reserves still offer up to a $20,000 sign-on bonus. Since this is a Special Operations Forces-oriented site, I would be remiss to ignore the fact that the Army is offering up to $100,000 to some Special Forces troops if they re-up. I wonder if they’d take back a 56-year-old with a bum leg?

A recruiting promotion just ended on September 30th, but given the current state of affairs, I’d be surprised if they didn’t reinitiate it. I’m talking about what is called the “quick ship” bonus. Effective August 25th, 2022, the Army agreed to give future soldiers who signed a four-year contract $40,000 if they agreed to ship to basic training by September 30th, 2022. That refers to the “desperate measures” wording I used in my title. They’re just throwing money at people…and the people aren’t grabbing it. Wait a second. Didn’t I say there was a $50,000 sign-on bonus? Why, yes, I did. Thank you for paying attention. That’s for future soldiers who sign on the dotted line for six years of active duty.