Amid reports that the Army is struggling to meet recruiting targets nationally this year, the outgoing commander of the battalion responsible for recruiting in most of North Carolina said it has maintained relatively consistent enlistment.
Lt. Col. Dan Greer, who had been commander of the Raleigh Recruiting Battalion for two years, says recruiting has become more challenging, as an improving economy means more potential recruits are finding jobs elsewhere. Still, Greer said, the battalion has maintained its numbers.
“We haven’t really seen a decrease in our enlistments,” Greer said after handing over command of the battalion to Lt. Col Ted Hudson in a ceremony Friday on the State Capitol grounds. The battalion covers a territory that stretches from Wilmington to Charlotte.
The Army announced earlier this month that it would shed roughly 40,000 soldiers from its ranks to reach a total strength of 450,000 in 2018. It still needs consistent recruitment to fill spots, however, and the Army is roughly 14 percent short of national targets for the year, according to a Department of Defense news release.
Hudson, who has spent 17 of his 26 years in the Army in North Carolina, agreed that the state is a good place to recruit, because residents are familiar with and supportive of the Army.
In 2014, the battalion recruited about 3,500 North Carolinians for the Army or the Army Reserve. That means it is fulfilling just under 4 percent of the Army’s recruitment goals, even though the state has about 3 percent of the U.S. population.
Hudson called recruitment a “no-fail mission” in his remarks at the ceremony, saying that there is no backup for empty positions.
He joined the Army the day he turned 17, having visited a recruiting center before his birthday. He said he was “going nowhere fast” before he joined, and he appreciates the professional opportunities that the Army offers young men and women. He stresses those opportunities for growth in his work with recruiters and the public.
A more prominent concern than recruitment success in recent weeks has been safety of recruiters, following a shooting at an Army recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tenn., earlier this month. The gunman then drove to another military site where he killed four U.S. Marines, authorities said.
Greer said that the battalion had instituted new safety protocols to help identify potential security threats, but that recruiters weren’t shaken by the shooting.
“Regardless of that terrible act we have a mission,” Greer said.
The recruiters are soldiers, but are not armed at the centers. Since the shooting, gun-toting civilians have stood guard outside some centers. The Army warned its recruiters to consider the citizens a security threat in a policy letter, according to Stars and Stripes, a military publication.
Billy Cheatum, another top battalion leader who tracks the health and wellness of the battalion, said the shooting had not deterred recruiters.
“Those things are beyond our control,” he said. “I don’t think it has affected the morale of my battalion.”
Cheatum added that every new commander can bring new energy to the force. The commander travels the state, visiting recruitment centers. He said that he was encouraged by Hudson’s attitude toward recruiting.
“I love that guy already,” he said.