Marines with Marine Forces Reserve pull a rope at Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans, March 29, 2019, during a Total Force Fitness event.

Marines with Marine Forces Reserve pull a rope at Marine Corps Support Facility New Orleans, March 29, 2019, during a Total Force Fitness event. U.S. Marine Corps / Sgt. Andy O. Martinez

Can a Fitness App Ease the Military’s Recruitment Crisis?

App gives recruiters a tool to monitor how their recruits are shaping up before shipping out.

Amid a major recruiting shortage across the military, a Navy pilot program would allow sailors who join the delayed entry program to better track their fitness goals as they prepare for boot camp. Some early indicators suggest it could make a big difference getting people who express interest in service into active duty.

Troops across the military have used the Coachmeplus app to stay fit during the pandemic. The app tracks various health and fitness indicators and also allows trainers to make sure that their trainees are on track. The app will allow sailors who enter the DEP,—which allows someone to enlist in the service but then defer shipping out to basic training—keep track of their fitness goals. 

All services have some version of DEP and many enlistees enter it to get in shape for boot camp, but not everyone who goes into a delayed entry program goes on to training and active duty. That, as well as the general decrease in fitness among young Americans, is part of  why the military is facing an enormous recruiting challenge. 

“Pandemic-driven constraints like virtual learning have further limited access to the recruiting population in high schools and exacerbated a decline in academic and physical fitness levels,” notes an Army memo on staff recruiting from last month. 

The Navy hopes the app will enable more people who are interested in service to actually meet the requirements to serve. 

“We currently have attrition at boot camp for a variety of reasons, many of them related to physical readiness,” Cdr. Dave Benham, the director of public affairs at Navy Recruiting Command, told Defense One in an email. “Our goal for the pilot program is to reduce attrition at boot camp by helping our future sailors in the [DEP]… to stay active and prepare adequately for the discipline and physical demands of boot camp. We anticipate use of the app to help improve recruiters’ ability to manage their DEP pools with improved communication, remote monitoring of… activity/progress, DEP program planning, and information/content.”

Benham said phase one of the pilot, which kicked off about 18 months ago, is already in progress, with 100 volunteers using the app on their devices. “Of those volunteers, nobody has attrited due to physical fitness issues. In the fall, we plan to expand that pilot program to another 1,000 personnel,” he said.

Kevin Dawidowicz, president and cofounder of CoachMePlus, told Defense One, “85 percent of the people who engaged in the app maintain usage. So like, there was high level of compliance with actually using the application. Fifty percent of people met their weight goals, whether they had to gain weight or lose weight. And the retention number was 20 percent higher than the placebo group who didn't use anything.”