First Wave of Army Noncommissioned Officers Gets Automatic Promotions for Completing Recruiting School

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January 13, 2024
Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Weimer speaks to members of the recruiting force

Dozens of noncommissioned officers received fast-track promotions for graduating the Army’s recruiting school in recent weeks — part of a controversial move by the service as it desperately grapples with a depleting pool of NCOs interested in serving in the role.

Of the 145 soldiers who attended the Army Recruiter Course, 56 NCOs were automatically promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant, according to the service. The graduation and promotions occurred Dec. 21, but the Army widely announced it on social media only Thursday.

In November, the service shifted its policy and started allowing automatic promotions for sergeants who become recruiters. The only stipulation is that the NCO be in good standing, but time in grade and attendance of the Advanced Leader Course is not accounted for.

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The move means a freshly promoted sergeant could potentially skip that rank by attending the eight-week recruiter course. It’s effectively the only instance in recent history in which a soldier could receive an automatic promotion exclusively for attending a school.

Otherwise, the earliest promotion to staff sergeant requires at least six months time in grade as a sergeant. But the promotion typically takes about two years on active duty — and much longer in the National Guard.

Staff sergeants who volunteer for recruiting school, and recruit 24 applicants during their first year on the job, will be promoted to sergeant first class. Those who attend recruiting school by February will also earn a $5,000 bonus. Current recruiters who extend their recruiting contracts can earn $1,500 per month for one year.

“You’re the face of our Army, the ambassadors of our values, and the key to ensuring the continued strength and excellence of the United States Army,” Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Weimer told the graduating recruiting class, according to a press release.

The service has scrambled for solutions to its ongoing recruiting slump. Much of that can be attributed to a combination of struggles with certain demographics and a shrinking pool of eligible applicants.

But part of the slump is also fueled by a shortage of recruiters. The recruiting school at Fort Knox, Kentucky, can train a maximum of 2,866 students per year, but graduated only 1,336 recruiters over the last fiscal year, which ended in September.

Schools sometimes do not fill all of their student slots in a training year, but falling so short on getting new recruiters through the pipeline spurred service planners to send out hundreds of orders to NCOs, without warning and sometimes giving them less than a week’s notice, to attend the recruiter course.

The chaotic rush to get soldiers into the school sparked bedlam in the force. Because of the sudden notice, some soldiers were allowed to not attend after all. The 145-soldier recruiting class that resulted had the capacity for 200 students.

Another issue is the recruiting role not being attractive to enough NCOs, as the job often requires long working hours and pressure from the top to get applicants into boots.

Recruiters have faced numerous challenges unique to recent years, including the launch of Military Health System Genesis, a health care database used by the services that sometimes paints incomplete pictures of a candidate’s health record. It has been criticized for overly scrutinizing minor physical and mental health histories.

Some recruiting units are also still having issues getting back into high schools since they were shut out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related: Inside the Army’s Mad Dash for Recruiters After Graduating Only Half the Number Needed

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