Army’s pre-boot camp will become permanent to improve the quality of recruits

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Gen. Randy George, 38th Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, visited Fort Jackson Sept. 19 to get a firsthand look at the Future Soldier Preparatory Course. The course helps civilians interested in joining the Army to achieve the aptitude battery test score and physical readiness needed to meet eligibility requirements to enlist. While touring the heart of the program, located within 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry Regiment, George asked trainees attending the program how they feel the program is helping them achieve their ultimate goal of enlistment as well as any suggestions they may have had to improve the program. (Photo by Nathan Clinebelle/Fort Jackson Public Affairs Office)

After a year as a pilot program, the U.S. Army’s boot camp for basic training is becoming permanent.

The Army Future Soldier Preparatory Course, which offers tracks for recruits to improve on their academic and physical abilities in order to join the service, will become a set part of the Army’s recruiting program. Stars & Stripes first reported the news, citing several U.S. Army officials. The official shift to a permanent program will take place in October, at the start of the new fiscal year. The program will also have access to increased funding as part of the shift.

The course was created in part due to the Army’s struggle with recruitment, and many of the people who did want to enlist did not meet the academic or physical requirements to join the service. In the course, “students” can train to meet body fat standards for the Army, or study to pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test. The program launched in August 2022 at Fort Jackson as the Army predicted a shortfall in its recruitment for the year. Students have 90 days to meet enlistment standards.

Over the last year, the pilot program has repeatedly expanded, including to let students take part in both tracks, rather than only one. It also was added to Fort Moore, Georgia in January.

Related: Be all you can be: Army releases new ‘First Steps’ recruiting ads

The Army, like other branches in the U.S. military, has been having trouble finding new recruits, in part due to poor image issues, including concerns about mental health. Last fiscal year the Army fell short of its goal of 60,000 enlistees by 15,000. Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth has said that she expects a similar shortfall this year. The Army has a goal to bring in 65,000 new soldiers.

The Army has attempted several other, concurrent efforts to help with the recruitment troubles. One of the biggest programs has been a series of financial incentives, including several bonuses for people who quickly start basic training. This year the Army relaunched its Be All You Can Be campaign and recently released a series of new videos titled First Steps as part of a recruiting campaign. These new commercials are airing on television and social media. 

Last month the Army reported that more than 8,800 people had taken part in the Army Future Soldier Preparatory Course, with a 95% graduation rate. It also said that graduates have received more than $15.5 million in bonuses. 

This article by Nicholas Slayton was originally published by Task & Purpose.

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