Army infantry recruits crawl under barbed wire as part of the confidence course on Fort Benning, Georgia, March 29, 2023.

Army infantry recruits crawl under barbed wire as part of the confidence course on Fort Benning, Georgia, March 29, 2023. U.S. Army / Christopher Hurd

Army recruiting: better than last year, still short of goal, officials say

The service inducted around 9,000 more new soldiers this year than in 2022, commander says.

LONDON—U.S. Army recruiting is adding about 20 percent more new soldiers than last year, the commander of the Army’s Recruiting Command said Friday, although it is still likely to fall short of its goal for the fiscal year. 

The Army is “doing a lot better,” said Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis at the DSEI arms trade show here.  

The service brought on fewer than 45,000 new soldiers in fiscal 2022, missing its goal of 60,000 by more than one-quarter. In fiscal 2023, which wraps up at month’s end, the Army is on track to add about 54,000 recruits, Davis said. He hailed strong recruitment in a number of states, including California and Texas. 

But the Army will fall short of its 2023 goal of 65,000 troops. That’s no surprise; Army leaders have said since May that they anticipated improvement but not to reach the mark. In July, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth described the target as a “stretch goal,” and said the Army expects it to take years to more consistently hit recruiting goals. 

Davis, like other Army leaders, noted barriers to service such as the strong U.S. economy attracting potential soldiers to the private sector, COVID preventing recruiters from working in schools, and eligibility restrictions related to weight and other factors. 

Even once applicants express a desire to join the military, there can be problems getting them on board. 

For around every ten applicants, only one typically enters boot camp, Davis said. More accurate medical screening may also be reducing the number of recruits who ultimately become soldiers, but Davis said the changes keep applicants safe. 

The Army re-launched its 1980s-era “Be All You Can Be” in March as part of a multi-pronged media effort to boost recruitment. The campaign has so far been successful, notching a 78 percent increase in brand recall, Acting Chief of Army Enterprise Marketing Ignatios Mavridis told Defense One.

One thing the Army is unlikely to do in the near future is turn to Chinese social media platform TikTok, an app wildly popular with Gen-Z but banned from official Army devices since 2019. Some recruiters still use it to great effect, with at least one Army recruiter in 2021 saying it accounted for 45 percent of her recruits. “We’re already behind,” said Sgt. Georgia Varoucha, a recruiter with the New Jersey Army National Guard to Defense One in 2021. “To me, we’re already ten years behind.”

Britain’s Army, meanwhile, is forging ahead with TikTok to good results. The British Army recently overcame government skepticism and received approval to advertise on the appas part of its recent video-game style recruiting campaign, titled “You Belong Here.” 

Since then, the Army has seen a 30 percent rise in applications, Maj. Gen. Tom Bewick, commander of British Army Recruiting and Initial Training Command, said at DSEI.  

Bewick also said some national news events had helped recruiting, such as the UK’s training of Ukrainian troops, which the British military has allowed the media to extensively cover.