WASHINGTON – The Army could add to its record retention numbers by upping incentives for Soldiers to stay on duty, according to the service’s top enlisted leader.
A pilot program for academic credentialing is being tested at Fort Hood, Texas, and the Army plans to extend the program to several major installations by the end of this year and service wide by the close of FY20, noted Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey.
At the end of June, the Army provided 110 bachelor’s degrees to senior NCOs who attended the Sergeant Major Academy at Fort Bliss, Texas. Dailey said the department will be providing Soldiers with some college credit or professional credentialing for each level of NCO training.
“The expectation is we give something back for that service,” Dailey said recently at an Association of the Army breakfast in Washington, D.C. “Not just be able to say that you served and sacrificed, but (getting) tangible results. That’s what we owe to the American people; is a better product, to be more productive in their hometowns.”
Dailey said the finer points of the program are still being worked out such as how to grow higher quality training for service members and how agencies giving academic credit will receive payment. The program also will be available to National Guard and Army Reserve members.
Further, the SMA said the Army has been working with each of the military centers of excellence to provide technical skill training equitable to academic skills. “We thought we need to build on that more because 60 percent of the Army is combat arms, so what tangible technical skills do they leave with?”
Dailey cited that 80 percent of American jobs require skilled labor, and that Soldiers can become productive members of the workforce after leaving the Army.
“There’s a great opportunity for many of our Soldiers to fulfill those skilled labor requirements in the hometowns of America. They have the tangible skills,” Dailey said. “We just need to make it official. We saw the opportunity to be able to capitalize on the great skills our Soldiers have now and translate those to civilian-sector skills, which we had not done.”
Last year, with the help of Congress and the Continuing Education System, the Army created the credentialing assistance fund that gave the service the authority to finance credentialing assistance for Soldiers. The program gives troops the opportunity to earn professional civilian licenses and technical credentials.
Dailey said the Army has already exceeded its retention goals for 2019 and could come close to its record numbers of last year. Additionally, he said the Army remains on track to meet its fiscal 2020 recruiting goal of 68,000 active-duty Soldiers, along with 15,600 for the Reserve and 39,000 for the National Guard.
Much of the retention and recruiting successes can be credited to the Soldier for Life program, which the Army will continue to support, noted the SMA. The Army reviewed surveys of junior Soldiers that showed a higher trust in leadership. And finally, Soldiers cited greater career advancement opportunities as reasons for re-enlisting.
The recently updated promotion board system also will help retain Soldiers, Dailey said. For decades, Soldiers earned promotions based more on time in rank and length of service. The changes focus promotions strictly on merit, potential and individual achievement.
“Most importantly, there’s opportunity for upward mobility,” Dailey confirmed, “which we found is the critical key to retaining our good Soldiers.”
Finally, the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army will merge Soldier pay and personnel management into one application to help better manage military careers, Dailey said. The Pennsylvania National Guard has been testing the system, and Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville met with Guard leadership to discuss fielding it. The system will eventually be implemented throughout the force.
Dailey said the service has plans to keep NCOs at the same duty location longer, but would have to examine each Soldier’s career model and their professional development. The service recently announced plans to extend overseas duty assignments in Japan and Europe by a year for unaccompanied Soldiers in order to increase readiness.
“Our goal is to try to suppress some of the movement that we have around the Army,” Dailey explained.
He said much of the movement in the Army is driven by requirements to strengthen the force in Korea, add more drill sergeants to train increasing numbers of new Soldiers and to add recruiters to meet recruiting goals.