National Guard recruiting continues rebounding after a dismal fiscal 2022, according to numbers from the National Guard Bureau.
The Army Guard saw a 26% increase in recruiting in the second quarter of fiscal 2023 (January through March) over the same period in 2022, with a 37% increase during January alone.
The Air Guard saw a 21% recruiting increase in the second quarter over last year, with a 23% rise in March alone.
Halfway through this fiscal year, the Guard recruiting's numbers sound better than most national headlines about military recruiting overall.
The Army Guard has achieved 56.1% of its recruiting mission of 30,880 enlistments, while the Air Guard has managed 61.3% of its target of 6,078 new airmen.
NGB attributes the recent recruiting increases to the end of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Easing COVID-19 restrictions has allowed recruiters greater in-person access to potential applicants.
"Consistent focus on the recruiter as the center of gravity will be critical to continue this momentum in FY23 and beyond," NGB spokesperson Deidre Forster said in an email.
Forster added that additional state resources, increased marketing funds and expanding the eligible military population through the Army’s Future Soldier Preparatory Course have contributed to the recruiting increases this fiscal year.
She also noted that the Air Guard expects to finish this year at or above 91% retention.
"A 1% increase in retention can make a difference of thousands in the [Air Guard’s] ability to make FY23 end strength," Forster stated.
The Air Guard saw an 11% increase over the first quarter of fiscal 2023 (October through December 2022), according to NGB, while the Army Guard saw a 43% jump in January over the same month last year.
Per NGB, these amounts push fiscal 2023 accessions up 7% over the first four months of fiscal 2023.
While the Guard's recruiting increases this fiscal year show promise, Pentagon officials have repeatedly painted a bleak picture of the overall recruiting environment in recent months.
On March 29, Lt. Gen. Caroline M. Miller, deputy Air Force chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said the Air Guard anticipated missing its 2023 mission requirement by 4,600 recruits.
According to Military.com, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in March that the service projects a 10% shortfall in recruiting this year and will likely miss its active, Guard and Reserve recruiting goals.
"We are swimming upstream against reduced propensity to serve nationally across the board and a limited percentage of qualified candidates," Kendall said.
Forster noted fiscal 2022 was a challenging recruiting year across the Defense Department and some services, particularly the Air Guard, are going above and beyond to make up for missed recruiting goals in recent years.
"The goal for FY23 required the [Air Guard] to surpass its historical accessions by thousands of recruits in a single fiscal year," she said.
"This is no small task given the challenging recruiting environment, and we have nearly half the fiscal year remaining to achieve this goal," Forster stated.
— By Donald Lambert