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Army starting new program for recruits who fail body fat and academic standards

Florida Army National Guard soldiers participate in a fitness test event of the German Armed Forces Badge (GAFB) in Grafenwoehr Training Area, Germany, July 21, 2022. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Ashley Low/Released)
July 27, 2022

The U.S. Army is launching a new pilot program next month to help recruits who fail to meet body fat standards or the minimum Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score to begin training to meet the standards before shipping to basic training. These new programs come as the Army and the military as a whole have struggled to meet their recruiting goals for the 2022 fiscal year.

On Tuesday, the Army announced it will begin the “Future Soldier Preparatory Course” at Fort Jackson, S.C., as a way to help recruits “overcome academic and physical fitness barriers to military service.”

The new Army recruiting program will start in early August and will consist of two separate tracks — a fitness program and an educational program — to help recruits improve their scores for the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT). Individuals on either track may participate for up to 90 days, with opportunities every three weeks to ship out to basic training if they meet the standards. The fitness course is an expansion of the Army’s Assessment of Recruit Motivation and Strength (ARMS) 2.0 program and will allow recruits between two and six percent above the body fat standard to enter the new pilot program and train to meet the standards to begin basic training.

“This course gives us an opportunity to unleash unrealized potential by surrounding trainees with experts that they likely would not have access to at home,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, the commander of the U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson. “With the right instruction and professional support, we are confident they will be able to perform successfully and meet the standards expected of every Soldier.”

This new pilot program comes as all U.S. military branches have struggled to meet their recruiting goals this year. Last week, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin said the Army expects to have a total force size of about 466,400 troops by the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 — about 18,000 troops fewer than the 485,000 troop goal than planned for the Army in the 2022 defense budget.

Martin attributed some of the struggles in Army recruiting to a competitive job market, but also said the number of young Americans who fully meet the Army’s recruiting enlistment standards had fallen from about 29 percent to around 23 percent.

The Army said the new “Future Soldier Preparatory Course” was specifically launched in response to a sharp decline in the number of Americans who can meet Army enlistment standards.

“This course is one of many approaches the Army is taking to invest in America’s young people,” said Gen. Paul E. Funk II, the commander of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC). “We have to acknowledge that society has changed and help our youth improve so they can benefit from the training and opportunities that Army service provides. The Army is still the best place for young people to achieve their potential.”

The Army has tried out other ways to improve recruiting, including relaxing its restrictions on tattoos and briefly trying out a waiver that would have allowed potential recruits without a high school diploma or General Educational Development (GED) certificate to enlist in the Army.