Monday, January 31, 2022

U.S. Air Force Retention

The U.S. Armed Forces is made up of 6 different branches: Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, Coast Guard, and Space Force. Within the 6 branches are 3 separate components: active duty, national guard, and reserves. Given that we have not been in a major war since WWII, the military we have today is completely voluntary. Those who want to serve, and are capable of meeting the standards of each respective branch can enlist voluntarily. In discussing force quality in class, the main way that the military determines its quality is through a combination of recruiting and retention. In this particular blog post, I examined the force quality of the Air Force.  

In October of 2021, the end of FY (Fiscal Year) 21, all three components achieved both their recruiting and retention goals according to Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, commander of the Air Force Recruiting Service. This was most likely due to the Covid 19 Pandemic that made many Airman stay in over fear of getting out and not finding a job or having a job they could potentially lose. In addition to the Pandemic, the Air Force has shifted their recruiting methods to one of "total force recruiting" which is a concept that allows recruiters from all 3 components to work together to achieve mission needs. This new strategy is allowing Air Force recruiters to match up recruit with the right service for them rather than trying to persuade them to go to one or the other simply for mission numbers. 

This way of recruiting in addition to the Air Force's pre existing quality of life for their airman shined during the Pandemic which resulted in record breaking numbers in retention. Airmen from all components were still being deployed both CONUS (nationally) and OCONUS (internationally), new recruits were coming in, and airmen remained in service even during a Pandemic. Active Duty Air Force added 26,641 enlisted airmen and 658 officers. The Air Reserves added 7,300 enlisted and 1,500 officers. The Air Guard added 7,869 enlisted airmen and 755 officers. 

While the Air Force retention has spiked recently, their incentives have dropped. Due to the high volume of retention, the Air Force is going to start cutting many of their incentives such as bonuses. Many career fields that originally required high incentives such as a bonus are looking to get cut because those slots are now full and staying full. Not only did the Air Force meet its goal but they surpassed their retention goals, which is leaving many slots over staffed. Overstaffing can make it difficult for airmen to move up in ranks and progress in their respective career field. The Air Force is known as being one of the more selective branches, but it looks like they may be even more selective and cut back on their recruiting in the coming years. 

Sunday, January 30, 2022

The Army Combat Fitness Test: Problem or Solution?

The Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) will soon replace the 40-year-old Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT). The new physical requirements are set to be implemented in April 2022 after COVID-19 and continuous scrutiny over the test's structure caused delays. Despite the ACFT’s forward movement, the question remains – will the ACFT help or hurt the force?

Can’t Seem to Get it Right 

The ACFT has seen several changes since its conception and is currently on its third version. Despite its attempt to be a gender-neutral alternative to the APFT, its high female fail rate was met with strong criticisms of gender discrimination. Standards were then reduced across the board but did not largely impact female scores. 

Now the ACFT is on its third version. This time, alternative exercises are an option and job and gender specific standards have been eliminated. However, performance is separated into percentiles and separated by gender in an attempt to reduce unfair promotion opportunities for women. 

Recognizing the many flaws of the ACFT, the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act required the Army to stop its implementation to allow Rand Corp. to conduct an independent study. The study will not only show how females are impacted by the ACFT, but also deployed soldiers and recruitment and retention rates. 

Is the ACFT Practical? 

Many have questioned whether the test is worth the money. In contrast to the APFT, the ACFT requires several different types of exercise equipment. The price tag to ensure all soldiers have access to the proper equipment has already cost the Army $63.8 million. This does not account for fielding costs and the logistical headache required for units to conduct the test. 

Additionally, Guardsmen and Reservists may struggle to implement the test. Fitness gear is not supplied to individual units, requiring soldiers to travel long distances to conduct the test. Guardsmen are also regularly deployed or engaged in state missions. Weekend training periods are usually not sufficient for National Guard units to complete training and an ACFT.  

A Force that is Fit

Despite the plethora of negative opinions, top leaders still believe the ACFT will improve overall readiness. The new test aims to better reflect the challenges in today’s combat environment. The hope is that the ACFT can better assess a soldiers cardiovascular and muscular endurance, strength, balance, coordination, and agility, all crucial to combat operations. Additionally, the ACFT is only one step in the Army’s plan to improve the holistic health and fitness of its soldiers. Regardless of the Rand Corp. study results, the ACFT and the Army’s plans for a stronger, healthier force still need more work.