SAN ANTONIO - The United States Army is working to bolster its numbers by recruiting 80,000 soldiers in 2018. It’s a goal that is not going to be easy to reach.
Out of all the recruits that are within the age limit to join the Army, more than 70% cannot pass the military’s physical requirement. It’s a problem that is making the pool of potential Army recruits smaller every day.
“There are a lot of challenges associated with that,” Lt. Col. D’Angelo Blount said. “Obesity being one.”
Lieutenant Blount is the Battalion Commander for the San Antonio Recruiting Brigade. He, his team and other recruiting brigades throughout the nation are working to bring in more than 11,500 recruits than they did one year ago.
“If we don’t bring those young men and women into the Army,” Lt. Col. Blount adds, “those formations will go without.”
As soldiers begin to reach retirement age, finding new soldiers has become a priority for the United States Military. Although the number of recruits is high, the Army cannot put quantity over quality.
“Our standards don’t change,” Lt. Col Blount said. “Quality is a must. We must have qualified men and women doing the things that we do on a daily basis.”
At Texas A&M San Antonio, Gaby Porras is working inside the Patriots Casa where the Office of Military Affairs is located. When Gaby was 17, she was one of those young recruits the Army was looking for.
Unlike many recruits today, however, she knew that joining the Army was what she wanted to do.
“It was obviously not something my mom would have envisioned for me,” Porras said. “She (mom) wasn’t 100%, and would tell me 'nope I’m not going sign.' I said, 'you do know I’m about to turn 18, and if you don’t sign now, I’m going to wait until I’m 18.'”
Gaby admits when she enlisted it was an opportunity to become an adult and be on her own. She became a Spanish linguist for the Army, and many of her special intelligence duties she is still not allowed to discuss.
But as Gaby began to move up the ranks within the Army, she started realizing that the Army was helping to set up her future.
“I got to teach a consolidated course that was a mixture of army soldiers and airmen,” Porras said. “After I retired, that’s when I decided I like that feeling of teaching and making a difference for someone because you’re making a huge impact."
Today, Gaby’s life is much different than when she enlisted. After 16 years of service and working her way up to Staff Sergeant, she medically retired. She now has a son, and her mother lives in with them in her home. Today, Gaby is working toward a degree thanks to incentives she earned from the military.
“The Army or the military as a whole, we know there are a lot of benefits tied to joining the military," Lt. Col. Blount said. "For the Army, we offer up to $40,000 signing bonus for certain occupational services.”
Lt. Col. Blount says he understands the Army is not for everyone. He also says the biggest challenge he and other recruiters are having is the fact that many young men and women don’t know the Army is an option.
“A lot of parents and educators are misinformed thinking that all we do in the Army is run, do P.T. and follow an order here or there,” Lt. Col. Blount said. "The Army offers more than 180 jobs. Out of these jobs, 99% carry over into the civilian sector."
It’s that information the Army is trying to get out to help bolster America’s Army and bring in more recruits. Working to keep the “Army strong” for years to come.