The Army has ordered a one-day halt next week in recruiting activities nationwide as complaints mount about aggressive tactics used by military recruiters struggling to meet monthly goals, Army officials said Wednesday.
The order for a recruiting “stand-down” comes during a significant enlistment slump caused by the Iraq war in which the Army has missed its active duty recruiting goals for the last three months.
The personnel shortfalls have intensified pressure on recruiters to meet quotas, drawing media attention to incidents in which recruiters allegedly threatened one prospect with prison time for not keeping an appointment, provided another with laxatives to help lose weight and pass a military physical, and instructed others on ways to cover up past drug use.
Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman, said the one-day freeze would give recruiters a day to “focus on how they can do a very tough mission without violating good order and discipline.”
Commanders of each unit are expected to go over proper procedures with their subordinates, establishing which recruiting tactics are off limits.
The decision to call the stand-down was made by Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, head of U.S. Army Recruiting Command. The stand-down date will be May 20, said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for Army Recruiting Command.
Smith said that the Army was investigating 480 allegations of improper conduct by Army recruiters this fiscal year. There were 957 such allegations in 2004, 955 in 2003 and 745 in 2002, Smith said.
The military often orders unit stand-downs when repeated vehicle, helicopter or jet crashes prompt the need for investigations.
The move will affect all 7,500 Army recruiters at 1,700 recruiting stations nationwide, officials said.
News of the stand-down was first reported by CBS News, which also reported several of the questionable tactics.
The Army has missed its monthly recruiting targets since February. At the end of last month, the Army was 15% off the pace to hit its annual target of 80,000 recruits for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
Army officials are hopeful they can emerge from the slump by the summer, historically the best season for recruiting. Over the last year, the Army has added hundreds of recruiters and spent millions of dollars on advertising campaigns to counter the “Iraq effect” -- the violent news out of the Middle East turning off potential recruits.
Last month, the Army announced an advertising campaign aimed specifically at parents who might be advising their children not to join the military.
The lackluster figures have also hit the Marine Corps, which in April missed its fourth straight monthly recruiting goal. Senior generals in both military branches say recruiting is not at a crisis point, but they are leaning heavily on recruiters to reverse the downward trend.
“Nobody will deny it’s a high-pressure job,” Curtin said.