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Official: Some potential recruits would rather flip burgers than join US military

Officer Candidate Glenn Halm of the Macon-based Officer Readiness Program, grinds to complete the push-up portion of the Army Physical Fitness Test at the 48th Infantry Brigade Combat Team Headquarters on April 27, 2019. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. Tori Miller)
June 30, 2023

A recent National Guard Bureau panel discussed the challenge of meeting recruitment goals as the National Guard faces competition with the fast food industry and other private sector jobs.

The National Guard Bureau panel explained that private sector jobs, such as the fast-food industry, are now offering college tuition benefits and other benefits that make it harder for the National Guard to compete and recruit young Americans to the service.

“It’s Wendy’s,” Nevada Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Marco Irenze said. “It’s Carl’s Jr. It’s every job a young person goes up against, because they’re offering the same incentives that we are right now.”

Col. Anthony Pasquale, Air National Guard division chief of recruiting and retention, said the current recruiting environment is likely the “most challenging” environment the Department of Defense has ever had to deal with.

He indicated that the Air National Guard is currently projected to fall between 3,000 or 4,000 recruitments short this year.

The Army National Guard has exceeded its yearly recruitment baseline by a slim margin of 699 soldiers, Military Times reported, while the Air National Guard is predicted to fall a few thousand recruits short of its goal for this year.

READ MORE: Air Force struggling to meet recruitment goals

Senior Master Sgt. Chris Perez, the senior enlisted advisor for the Washington Air Guard’s Recruiting & Retention, noted that companies such as T-Mobile, Amazon and Microsoft are among a list of companies competing with the National Guard for talent.

Staff Sgt. Yoon Kim, recruiter for the Illinois Army Guard’s Woodstock Sustainment Program, added FedEx and UPS as other competitors in the talent market.

Tech Sgt. Stephen Graves, recruiter for Illinois Air Guard’s 182nd Airlift Wing, noted that “competition” is currently found in “any civilian market” and “any career field.”

In response to growing competition, Graves said the Air National Guard is considering changing its schedule for drill weekends in an effort to offer “flexibility” to potential recruits.

Despite the current recruitment challenges, Col. Steve Rowe, chief of staff for New York Army Guard, expressed optimism for the future of the National Guard, saying, “The relevancy of the National Guard mission is the highest it’s been in recent memory.”

Sgt. Maj. Anthony Abbate, New York Army Guard Recruiting and Retention Command sergeant major, added, “We’re grassroots. We’re from the communities that we’re living in and recruiting out of.”