'The Few, the Proud' Aren't So Few: Marines Recruiting Surges While Other Services Struggle!
2023/07/31

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PARRIS ISLAND, S.C. — Not long ago, Marine Col. Jennifer Nash, a combat engineer with war deployments under her belt, made a vow to fellow officers as they headed to a dinner in Atlanta: She would get two new recruiting contacts by the end of the evening.

She admits recruiting is not the job that she or other Marines had in mind when they enlisted. But after stints as a recruiter and senior officer at the , she has become emblematic of the Corps' tradition of putting its best, battle-tested Marines on enlistment duty. They get results.

Marine leaders say they will make their recruiting goal this year, while the active-duty Army, Navy and Air Force all expect to fall short.

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The in the tight job market to compete with higher-paying businesses who can meet the military’s physical, mental and moral standards.

On that night, Nash achieved her own goal. She had gotten the valet at the hotel and the hostess at the restaurant to provide their phone numbers and to consider a Marine career.

Nash’s boss, Brig. Gen. Walker Field, who head the Eastern recruiting region, says the Corps has historically put an emphasis on selecting top-performing Marines to fill recruiting jobs.

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He says that has been a key to the Marines’ recruiting success, along with efforts to increase the number of recruiters, extend those who do well and speed their return to high schools, where in-person recruiting stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said his recruiters — who cover the territory between Canada and Puerto Rico and as far west as Mississippi — will meet their mission and expect to have 30% of their 2024 goal when they start the next fiscal year, Oct. 1. More broadly, Marine officials say they expect the Corps to achieve its recruiting target of more than 33,000.

Last year, the Navy, Air Force and Marines had to eat into their pools of delayed entry applicants in order to make their goals.

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The Marines will avoid that this year.

“That would be a great ending,” said Field, speaking to The Associated Press on a recent steamy day at South Carolina's , along the Atlantic Coast. “I’m bearish for not only concluding FY23 on a strong footing, but also how we set the conditions for FY24.”

The Marine Corps may get some help from its small size. The Army, for example, has a recruiting goal of 65,000 this year, which is nearly double the Corps', and expects to fall substantially short of that. Air Force and Navy officials say they will also miss their goals, although the Space Force, which is the smallest service and does its recruiting within Air Force stations, is expected to meet its goal of about 500 recruits.

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Sitting in the shadow of Parris Island's replica of the , Field said his biggest challenge is that a number of Marine hopefuls cannot pass the military’s academic test, known as the .

That is a widespread problem, but the Army recently set up 30 on the test and provides schooling for several weeks to help them pass. Already more than 8,800 recruits have successfully gone through the classes, raised their scores and moved on to basic training.

The Navy is taking another route with a pilot program that allows up to 20% of their recruits to score below 30 on the test, as long as they meet specific standards for their chosen naval job. Marine leaders, however, do not take those lowest scoring recruits, and so far have no plans for any type of formal improvement program such as the Army's.

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