Army graduates first class of recruiting warrant officers

The first class of warrant officers to join the Army’s recruiting corps graduated Thursday, a major step as the service after overhauls how it convinces civilians to become soldiers. The class of 25 completed 10 weeks of training at two bases learning how to use large-scale data and marketing skills to aid traditional face-to-face recruiters.

“The Army ultimately is a brand just like any other company so we have to analyze the market out there. There are different types of reports that exist for most companies to kind of identify the type of demographics, what those people are into, what they’re interested in, what motivates them,” said CW2 Sasha Adams Gibson, one of the 420T graduates. “That’s the type of thing that we’re looking at diving deeper into within our assigned areas to ensure that we’re marketing messaging the right way.”

Recruiting has been a near-crisis in the Army in recent years. The service missed its 2023 recruiting goal by nearly 10,000 soldiers. In response, the Army lowered its annual goal for 2024 to 55,000 recruits, which officials have said they’re on pace to meet.

The new position was announced in October with the Army’s overhaul of its recruiting enterprise as the all-volunteer force faces its toughest recruiting environment since the end of the post-9/11 wars.

The 420T warrant officer positions will handle the Army’s behind-the-scenes data analysis which goes into the service’s recruiting formula. They’ll be tasked with using internal Army data and reports from private companies to generate better leads for on-the-ground recruiters, understand the local market and tap into themes that help market the Army brand to communities. 

CW2 Juana Trujillo, another 420T graduate, said her job will consider how different Army pitches will play in different demographics and with different genders.

Col. Christine Rice, lead officer in charge of workforce redesign, said the 420T soldiers will help the Army look at “how do we turn data analytics into strategy” for leaders to make better decisions about where and how to allocate resources. 

CW3 Troy Capehart, a 420T graduate said part of his new role will be analyzing U.S. Army Recruiting Command reports which show how the Army spends money and what the return on investment is for recruitment campaigns.

Task & Purpose visited Fort Knox in March to see the Army’s process for 420T selection, which began with 75 candidates from 13 branches across the Army. The soldiers were chosen based on their previous knowledge and skills. They took personality tests focused on problem solving, communication, leadership and cognitive skills and completed a panel interview before the final selection was narrowed down to 25.

In May, the first class of 25 warrant officers finished two weeks of fundamental data analytics training at the Adjutant General School on Fort Jackson, South Carolina. They then went on to complete eight weeks of technical training at the Recruiting and Retention College at Fort Knox, Kentucky, where they learned about recruiting operations, marketing, public affairs and how to use data analytics for recruiting. The candidates were also trained in tools used by private companies like Microsoft Power BI for data visualization and Structured query language (SQL), a programming language used to store and process data.

Army officials are almost done with the second 420T cohort’s assessment and the plan is for their training to begin in September. In January, the Army is planning for its third cohort to start training. Those three classes will fill half of the 420T MOS positions the Army plans to create.

The Army is also working on a similar position, 42T for enlisted soldiers which is a departure from the service’s long-time approach to manning its recruiting stations. Traditionally, soldiers from a wide range of careers served as recruiters for temporary assignments before returning to their original job. But with the Army’s new approach, officials want to professionalize the job of recruiters. 

Officials said the first virtual panel of 42T was conducted in the last month. The first set of 42Ts will join their Army units in the second quarter of fiscal year 2025.

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Recruiting updates across the services 

Task & Purpose asked all five military services where recruiting numbers currently stand for 2024 (all services track annual recruiting goals on a fiscal calendar, from October 1 to September 30): 

The Army insists it is on track to hit its reduced goals after several years of missing recruitment targets but officials told Task & Purpose that they have not released exact figures on their contracts to date and don’t plan to.

Marine Corps officials said the Corps is on track to reach its recruiting goals. As of May 31, the Marine Corps reached 101% of its monthly accession goals towards its annual goal of recruiting 31,100 Marines (28,100 Active / 3,000 Reserves). 

As of July 8, the Air Force said it was slightly ahead of its annual goals, having hit 76% of its enlisted (27,100) and 79% of its officer goal (1,501) for fiscal year 2024. Last year, the active duty Air Force goal was 26,877, which the service missed by about 10%.

For fiscal year 2025, the Air Force is looking to raise its annual goal to 32,300 (active duty Air Force non-prior service) and approximately 2,000 officers.

The Space Force, which has 9,400 guardians, is also on track to hit its recruiting goals.

The Navy, however, is struggling to hit its 2024 goal. In 2023, the Navy missed its active duty recruiting goal by more than 7,900. For fiscal year 2024, the Navy wants to recruit 43,407 (enlisted and officers). The official report of this year’s Navy recruiting contracts will be released this fall.

A spokesperson for the Navy said the service exceeded its monthly contracting goal for April, May and June. They said the numbers thus far are very encouraging but added that “we will not be able to ship every contracted future Sailor in FY 2024, which will allow us to build capacity in the Delayed Entry Program and position us well, going into FY 2025.”

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Patty Nieberg

Sr. Staff Writer

Patty is a senior staff writer for Task & Purpose. She has covered the military and national defense for five years, including embedding with the National Guard during Hurricane Florence and covering legal proceedings for a former al Qaeda commander at Guantanamo Bay. Her previous bylines can be found at the Associated Press, Bloomberg Government, Washington Post, The New York Times, and ABC.