Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Recruit Quality Remains High

The military has been able to fill its ranks without sacrificing quality, DoD's top personnel official told reporters. David S. C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said all active-duty components met their recruiting goals in June for the 13th month in a row.He said the reserve components also did well, with all but the Navy Reserve making their recruiting goals. All told, DoD recruits about 300,000 servicemembers in all components each year. Chu called the fact that the department can fill the ranks of the volunteer force a testament to young peoples' desire to serve. "I think it's an antidote to those who question the willingness of young Americans to put someone else before themselves, to put some larger cause first," he said. "It's an antidote to that skepticism about youth and its values to see these numbers and to see their performance in the field."More than 60 percent of the recruits came from the top half of mental aptitude categories. More than 90 percent have a high school diploma, which is the best indicator that recruits will stay through their first enlistment, officials said. Chu said he is not disturbed by the increase in the number of "category 4" personnel joining the Army. These recruits score in the lowest category of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery of tests ( Note: "Category 4" are those who score 30 or less on the AFQT, or overall ASVAB score).The Army recruits no more than 4 percent of its force from this category, meeting the DoD benchmark, explained Doug Smith, public affairs officer for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. For many years, the Army had a self-imposed 2-percent limit, he said, but raised it to 4 percent in 2005. This stands in sharp contrast to the late 1970s, when as many as 45 percent of Army recruits could be drawn from category 4. Congress imposed a cap of 25 percent of new recruits in that category in fiscal 1981, then lowered the ceiling to 20 percent in fiscal 1983, according to Bob Clark, DoD's assistant director for accessions policy.Chu called DoD's 4 percent level appropriate to the needs of the military and said no one is looking to change the recruiting standards that have served the military so well. "The standards have not changed. They are not going to change," he said. "We aim for the department as a whole to have 90 percent of our new recruits ... be high school diploma graduates. We aim to have 60 percent score in the upper half of the mental distribution." And the department will insist on high moral standards, he said. "Quality pays off" in a varied range of ways, Chu said. "Quality pays off in ability to deal with difficult situations.Quality pays off in ingenuity in solving problems. Quality pays off in figuring out ... 'what did the lieutenant mean by those orders anyway?'" The task now is to continue progress in the months ahead, he said. "Obviously, recruiting is a bit like watching a high-wire performer," Chu said. "It's wonderful that we have done well so far, but there's always the challenge of tomorrow. "So this is a business where you can never lose your focus, you can never stop concentrating on the next challenge," he said.

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