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Recruitment is an American problem

I Corps Commander addresses shortfall

Lieutenant General Xavier Brunson, commanding general of I Corps, delivers commentary at the 2022 Civilian Hall of Fame ceremony at JBLM. Photo credit: Spc. Richard Carlisi, I Corps Public Affairs

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The Army's recruitment goal of 485,000 soldiers is almost 20,000 short for fiscal year 2022 according to a memo written in July by Gen. James McConville, Army Chief of Staff.

In it he said that a general lack of interest and a sense of distrust in the Army contributed to the decline in recruits, to say nothing of the COVID-related restrictions on schools.

"This is not an Army problem, so nationally what we have to look at is what's going on with our youth," Lt. Gen. Xavier Brunson, Commander, I Corps, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, told the Spokesman-Review during a trip to Spokane.

"Some of the challenges we have are obesity, we have pre-existing medical conditions, we have behavioral health problems, we have criminality, people with felonies, and we have drug use. "This is not an Army problem, this is an American problem."

According to a July 14 report by the New York Times, the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy are also struggling to meet quotas.

To meet the challenge the Army will focus its recruitment efforts on maintaining existing standards, focusing on quality not quantity, and investing in America's youth.

While in Spokane, Brunson met with area education leaders - the "influencers" who are critical to the Army's strategy he said - at a Gonzaga University conference about the opportunities the Army provides.

Almost 75 percent of young adults between the ages of 18 to 25 say there are familiar with the Army but are not clear about benefits and career paths, according to a 2022 Army survey.

"I get troubled when people talk about the Army as if it's the end of a thing. The Army is the beginning of a thing," Brunson added. "It's the opening of an aperture to the rest of your life."

Brunson pointed out how the Future Soldier Programs acts as a type of pre-basic training course to help potential soldiers meet the Army's physical and academic standards.

"There are people who can be led from the front, but there are a certain number of people with a desire to serve who can be led from behind a little bit," added the soldier of 32 years.

The Army also increased enlistment bonuses (up to $50,000) in some career opportunities, along with "quick-ship" bonuses ($35,000) for recruits who leave for basic training within 45 days.

Brunson said that when he thinks about what service means, he is reminded of the first African Americans to enlist during the Civil War. The opportunity to serve helped solidify their status as American citizens.

"I think there's a divide in the nation between the stewardship of the nation and ownership of the nation," said Brunson. "People own the title, ‘I'm an American,' but stewardship says, ‘I've served the nation,' and that's what makes the republic sound."

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