The Army National Guard has exceeded its annual strength goals, despite a year marked by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, according to the National Guard Bureau.
Approximately 43,000 new recruits enlisted into the Army Guard during fiscal 2020. The force also added more than 4,100 soldiers from other components to help the force reach an end strength of 336,000 soldiers.
The Army Guard had a retention rate of 101% and an attrition rate of 13% during the fiscal year, leaders said.
Recruiting had been up prior to the pandemic. In February, the Army Guard enlisted more soldiers than in any month in the past six years.
“It’s been an unprecedented year in recruiting,” said Lt. Col. Damon Hogsten, the chief of the Army Guard’s Strength Maintenance Division. “Prior to March, before COVID restrictions were implemented, recruiting was achieving about a 10% increase, month over month, in our accessions compared to the last two previous fiscal years.”
COVID restrictions brought traditional recruiting efforts to a halt. And the Army Guard saw a significant decline in accessions for the months of March, April and May.
By June, however, the recruiting numbers had rebounded back to typical levels, Hogsten said.
“We finished September very, very strong,” he said.
Amid the pandemic, recruiters relied more on social media and other virtual tools. Recruiters in each state, territory and the District of Columbia shared best practices.
“The 54 recruiting battalions spoke to each other monthly,” said Sgt. Maj. Sean Gilligan, the Strength Maintenance Division’s senior enlisted leader. “This is what we’re doing. This is how we’re doing things. We have virtual calls that we do. We’re holding appointments on our computers.”