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As the COVID-19 pandemic slows recruiting, Army begins push for new enlistments

U. S. Army Lt. Col. Shoshannah Lane, center, commander of the 46th Aviation Support Battalion, kisses her daughter Lilly, 1, as they attend a change of command ceremony, Monday, April 3, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.
Ted S. Warren
/
The Associated Press (file)
U. S. Army Lt. Col. Shoshannah Lane, center, commander of the 46th Aviation Support Battalion, kisses her daughter Lilly, 1, as they attend a change of command ceremony, Monday, April 3, 2017, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state.

The top general at Joint Base Lewis-McChord is asking for new recruits.

Lt. Gen. Randy George is part of a three-day Armywide push to enlist 10,000 people, after COVID-19 restrictions slowed recruitment all spring.

In May, NPR reported on how recruiting has changed during the pandemic, and the branch’s head of recruitment told The Army Times that enlistments were down by about half this year.

That’s because recruiting is a largely in-person process. It was the case when a 17-year-old Randy George signed up near his hometown in Iowa back in 1982. And it’s the case now, or it was until the pandemic stopped in-person work all spring.

In normal conditions, recruiters talk with enlistees and often parents about the variety of jobs in the Army, and the concerns some might have.

“We do have to address those concerns, and again I think that’s something that’s hard if you can’t meet with somebody,” George said. “It’s a little different doing that virtually when you don’t know someone.”

At JBLM, George says the Army is focused on making sure people already in the service feel they can advance to different jobs, or transition from the enlisted ranks to being an officer (green-to-gold, they call it).

The Army is offering bonuses to certain recruits, and hoping to bring people in to a variety of occupations throughout the service.

Ed Ronco came to KNKX in October 2013 as producer and reporter for KNKX’s Morning Edition. Ed started in public radio in 2009 at KCAW in Sitka, Alaska, where he covered everything from city government, to education, crime, science, the arts and more. Prior to public radio, Ed worked in newspapers, including four years at the South Bend (Ind.) Tribune, where he covered business, then politics and government.