Military and Defense

The Army’s Plan To Put Out Of Shape Recruits Through ‘Fat Camps’ Is Working, Secretary Says

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  • The Army’s pilot program to bring up test scores and bring down body fat percentage of potential recruits has seen initial successes, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at a fireside chat Friday.
  • Wormuth said she hopes to expand the program to address historic recruiting problems facing the military.
  • “Any decision to expand will take into account the resources needed to ensure we are successfully preparing and building quality recruits who have the desire and ability to meet our desired standards and serve honorably in our all-volunteer force” U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training spokesman Randy Ready told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Most participants in the Army’s pilot program to help potential recruits who fall below acceptable academic and fitness standards meet requirements have sufficiently lost weight and increased their test scores, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at a fireside chat Friday.

The Army rolled out the Future Soldier Prep Course in August after finding that only 23% of young Americans met the Army’s physical and educational requirements for enlistment. The initial 90-day program has seen success, with a majority of participants meeting body fat standards and passing the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), a test administered to all Army applicants, according to Wormuth.

“Early results of the prep course are pretty encouraging,” Wormuth said at a fireside chat with the Center for a New American Security, a Washington, D.C., think tank.

Roughly 93% of the participants in the program’s academic track brought their scores up to Army standards, and up to 85% of those who completed the physical fitness track moved on to basic training, Wormuth said, adding that the program is “relatively low-cost.”

More than 1,900 students enrolled in the academic and fitness tracks total, Randy Ready, a spokesperson for U.S. Army Center for Initial Military Training, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. Students graduated from the academic track with a 95% success rate and average score improvement of 17 points, while 483 students are still in the course.

In addition, the service has seen demand for the course exceeding capacity at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where many future soldiers complete basic training.

“We have more young Americans who want to do it than we can accommodate now at Fort Jackson,” she said.

Wormuth said the department hopes to expand the program to other locations. One idea service leaders have floated is adding a virtual component for the academic portion of the Future Soldier Prep Course.

“Any decision to expand will take into account the resources needed to ensure we are successfully preparing and building quality recruits who have the desire and ability to meet our desired standards and serve honorably in our all-volunteer force” Ready told the DCNF.

The Future Soldier Prep Course was one of several new initiatives aimed at addressing a record-breaking recruiting shortfall. The Army fell close to 25% short of its recruiting goal for 2022 at the Sept. 30 cut-off, drawing in 45,000 new soldiers instead of the intended 60,000 according to The Associated Press.

While service leaders, including Wormuth, pointed to a lack of fit recruits as one reason for recruiting struggles, salary competition with the private sector and recruiters’ access to places young potential service members frequent — schools, universities and other youth organizations — during the COVID-19 pandemic also contributed, they argued, according to the AP.

To address the recruiting shortfall across the military departments, leaders have tried boosting enlistment bonuses, relaxing appearance policies and seeking to improve quality of life for service members.

Wormuth said the Army planned to invest more in marketing in the future to meet an “ambitious” 2023 recruiting target. By partnering with Forces Command, Army Recruiting Command is investing millions in fifteen cities across the country to make Army units “visible” at events.

Measuring marketing results in “signed contracts” will not be as simple as with the prep course, Wormuth said. “How are we going to trace that back to, did it actually result in signed contracts? I don’t think that we do know,” she said.

“Given the intensity of the recruiting challenge that we’re facing, I think we do have to move out,” she added.

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