While the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force have all said they will fall short of their recruiting goals this year, the Marines expect to meet theirs and even meet 30% of their 2024 goal by the start of the new fiscal year on October 1.
"I’m bearish for not only concluding FY23 on a strong footing, but also how we set the conditions for FY24," Brig. Gen. Walker Field, who heads the Marines’ Eastern recruiting region, told the Associated Press this week.
While the Marines have a much smaller recruiting goal than the Army – 33,000 compared to 65,000 – they also have notoriously high standards, refusing to take recruits who get low score on their Armed Services Voluntary Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) test.
The Army and Navy have both set up programs to help recruits who score below 30 on the test move into a job.
The Marines have also resisted increasing bonuses to attract recruits — something the other services have found helpful.
"Your bonus is you get to call yourself a Marine," Gen. Eric Smith, the acting Marine Corps commandant, said during a naval conference in February. "That’s your bonus, right? There’s no dollar amount that goes with that."
All of the armed services have been forced to compete for recruits with higher-paying non-governmental jobs and physical and mental standards that not everyone can make.
Last year, the Navy, Air Force and Marines had to eat into their pools of delayed entry applicants in order to make their goals and the Army expects to fall substantially short of its goal this year.
The Corps focuses on putting its top performers in recruiting positions, increasing the number of recruiters and they plan to get recruiters back into high schools, which stopped during the COVID-19 pandemic. Field said they are also repositioning recruiters where the population is growing.
Marine Col. Jennifer Nash, a combat engineer who has deployed more than once, told the Associated Press she was at first "voluntold" for a recruiting position but has now come to appreciate it.
"We put our best and brightest in those positions," she said. "That's why they got selected, because they were above their peers."
Nash also explained her pitch.
"I say, 'Hey, ever thought about being Marine? We're a bunch of Marines. And, you know, I think you potentially could be a good Marine. You ever thought about it?' And usually you get, ‘Yeah, I thought about it.’ And I'm, like, ‘What’s holding you back? Would you like to learn more about your opportunities?' ‘Absolutely.’ `OK. Mind giving me your name and phone number? I’ll have one of my recruiters give you a phone call.'"
Nash told The Associated Press that 10 Marines dressed in uniform is worth more than $10 million for recruiting.
"Give me those 10 Marines and give me a day," she said. "We’ll go out and we’ll get more out of that, I think, than $10 million in advertising."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.