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Why soldiers stay or leave

DACES helps leaders understand how soldiers, married soldiers, and soldiers with families view important career and professional decisions. Photo credit: Emiliano H., JBLM MWR

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WASHINGTON - Over 50,000 soldiers responded to the first-ever Department of the Army Career Engagement Survey or DACES, during its first year of collection, Army officials recently announced.

DACES is an important retention tool, allowing active-duty soldiers to share their thoughts about continued military service to Army senior leaders.  The customized survey tailors questions to the individual soldier based on their career field as well as their responses to previous questions.

Survey results will be available to Army leaders in the near future via a shared data platform, giving them objective data on the views of soldiers within their formations. Leaders will have the ability to filter results by rank, career field, gender and race, giving leaders an accurate assessment of concerns in key demographics, while maintaining the privacy of individual soldiers.

"The inaugural DACES report provides an initial look into the insights that can be derived from DACES. The report leverages consented responses from active-duty soldiers and confidentially shares key findings with both Army senior leaders and the force at large," said Dr. Loryana Vie, a senior researcher at the Army Analytics Group's Research Facilitation Laboratory.

DACES has already provided Army senior leaders with key insights into the reasons soldiers decide to either stay in the Army or depart.

"DACES provides objective information from thousands of soldiers," said Brig. Gen. Brett Funck, the Director of the Army Talent Management Task Force. "The Army can analyze this information to gain a rich understanding of how soldiers feel and what their future potential decisions are based on."

According to the survey, soldiers most commonly cited the opportunity to serve their country as an "Extremely Important" reason to stay in the Army (53.5%). The other top four answers included retirement pay and benefits (45.1%), opportunities to lead or train (43.5%), sense of purpose (38.1%), and current benefits (37%).

The effects of deployments on family or personal relationships was the single largest reason to leave the Army with over a quarter of SMs (26.7%) citing this as an "Extremely Important," the survey stated. Other top reasons cited included the impact on a significant other's career (24.8%), the impact on plans for children (23.4%), and the impact on the family's well-being (22.9%).

The survey also asked respondents to compare advantages of civilian and Army 
employment across a number of aspects. Over a third (36.7%) indicated they believe civilian employment offers a "Much Better" opportunity for a stable lifestyle, relative to Army employment. Civilian employment was also believed to offer "Much Better" work/life balance (32.1%), career flexibility (27.1%), quality of life (22.8%), and resources for completing one's work (17.2%), relative to Army employment. 

"Life in the Army is challenging but rewarding. Demographics in the Army change; DACES helps leaders understand how soldiers, married soldiers, and soldiers with families view important career and professional decisions," Funck said.

The effects of Army life on their families, their spouses' careers and relationships were the most important reasons soldiers cited for potentially leaving the Army.

Previous exit surveys only targeted soldiers already leaving the Army, while this survey allows all active-duty soldiers to provide their current motivations to stay in or leave the service. DACES can also show how respondents' answers may change over time, while still maintaining the anonymity of soldiers.

The Army will publish the results of DACES each year. The findings will be used to help the Army improve retention and quality of life. Soldiers will be sent invitations to take the 10-minute survey annually during their birth month and are encouraged to take it each year to provide their input. Soldiers will also receive an invitation to take DACES within 180 days of their retirement or separation date.

The 2021 DACES report can be found at the Army Talent Management Task Force website:

For questions regarding DACES, please contact Maj. Joseph Payton at

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