Oct. 9 (UPI) — The U.S. Army reached its recruiting and retention goals for fiscal year 2020, but officials said additional diversity in the ranks must be encouraged.
The Army saw the enlistment of 62,150 new soldiers in the year ending Sept. 30, bringing its total enlistment, mandated by Congress, to its goal of 485,383. It was achieved despite recruiting limitations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, largely though retention of soldiers through short-term re-enlistment options.
Over 1,600 soldiers signed three- to 11-month contract extensions, with 139 then re-enlisting again. Another 1,000 extended their commitments into fiscal year 2021. The retention increase allowed the Army to lower its recruitment expectation of 68,000 to about 62,000.
“COVID-19 caused a change to retention and attrition that was not predicted. More people wanted to stay in the Army, which meant we needed fewer people to enlist than we initially expected,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command.
All 14,000 Army recruiting stations closed for several months, beginning on Mar. 18, because of the pandemic, and shifted to all-virtual operations. For two months beginning in April, no recruits entered Army basic training.
“We made a lot of changes in a short period of time,” Vereen said. “We have seen how valuable these changes are for our personnel, and we will continue to use them when the pandemic is over as well as work to do even more to streamline the process.”
With an expressed goal of welcoming more minorities and women into the service, the Army made slight improvements in diversity during Fiscal Year 2020. Non-white recruits composed 47% of the 2020 total, up from about 45% in 2018 and 2019. About 18% were female, an incremental improvement.