USF ROTC bucks army recruitment woes

While the recruitment offices of the United States Armed Forces face a serious problem due to its inability to maintain the nation’s fighting force — they have missed recruiting requirements for the past four months — USF’s Army ROTC is surpassing its recruitment quota twofold.

In February 2005, the Army missed its set recruitment goal by almost 25 percent for the first time in five years. Last week the Army announced that it had failed to reach its target of 6,700 recruits for May, the fourth successive month that it has fallen short.

According to an April 2005 edition of the NCO Journal, a military publication, “Working against the military is a solid economy … military recruiting does better in bad economic times.”

In the article, the War on Terror is said to be “working both for and against the military,” but news reports state otherwise. The Chicago Sun, for example, states in an article featuring Ret. Army Lt. Col. Charles Krohn that, “The Army’s dilemma is maintaining an all-volunteer service when volunteering means going into harm’s way in Iraq.”

Others, like Maj. Kathleen Porter, executive officer of USF’s Army ROTC, believe that the true problem is an inability to retain soldiers because of back-to-back deployments and the stress that it provokes in families of soldiers who are stationed overseas.

“There is no amount of money that we can offer when your family is at stake,” said Porter.

While these problems may plague Army recruiters around the country, the Army ROTC program at USF is finding major success in recruiting and field performance, being ranked at the top 10 percent in the country.

The mission of the Army ROTC at USF is to commission 14 lieutenants every year, but for the past five years, they’ve exceeded that quota.

“We had 28 lieutenants last year and this year we had 24. As far as getting people into the program (for the upcoming academic) year, we’re exceeding our expectations right now,” said Lt. Nathan Diaz, a former cadet of the Army ROTC.

Though the War on Terror is largely attributed to be the cause of recruitment woes, the decrease in the Army ROTC from 28 recruit cadets to

24 in the last two years a decision made by the ROTC.

“We’re not really seeing a decrease,” said Porter. “We could easily go back to 28. (Our mission is) for 14, and we are only (given) that amount of personnel to commission 14 at this point.”

Porter considers the success of recruitment at USF to be a direct effect of good leadership and community integration.

“It all started five years ago,” said Porter. “(Lt. Col. Joe Kools) came aboard and brought us to a new level. He handpicked our staff, and in doing so he put together a great team.”

Lt. Col. Kools, the battalion commander, not only focused on giving the cadets training for the battlefield, but also stressed community involvement.

“Now the cadets are actively involved in the University. We’re known and we have good relationships,” said Porter.

Other universities in the state that also participate in the ROTC program are seeing success in their recruitment numbers as well, despite the decline in overall recruitment throughout the nation. However, when those universities fall short of their yearly quota, their numbers are bolstered by the overages from successful programs like the one here at USF.

“Some (programs) are falling short,” said Porter. “Everybody (attempts to) meet their mission (of recruiting) 14. They don’t, so when we make 28, we help them.”

Locally, recruitment offices around the University are seeing the same lack of success as other offices around the country.

ROTC doesn’t have the pressure of sending recruits to boot camp on a monthly basis like enlistment offices. Instead, cadets are trained for a minimum of two years before they are given numerous options for their future.

But what does this future consist of if the Army is indeed in a recruitment crisis?

Diaz is optimistic. “The Army is currently moving to become a more modular force,” he said. “We’re in a growing phase. (And we’re) ahead of schedule.”