Army moves to 100% virtual recruiting as COVID-19 continues to spread

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The Army is shifting into virtual recruiting as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the U.S., resulting in teleworking and social distancing. 

The news was announced on Friday by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville, who told reporters that physical recruitment operations were closing "right now, as we speak." 

"We are going to, basically, virtual recruiting," McConville said. "Much of that is done on social media, and that allows us to protect our soldiers, and also to protect the recruits." 

Meanwhile, U.S. Army Recruiting Command officials were having a virtual town hall on Friday to discuss what that would look like, and what messaging recruiters need to focus on. 

Maj. Gen. Frank Muth, commander of USAREC, told recruiters that the typical way to approach potential recruits by simply asking if they're interested in the Army won't work, and they instead need to focus on a message of unity. 

"What we’ve got to say is, ‘We are in this together,'" Muth said. "We have 10,000 recruiters throughout the entire world, and we’re in it with them. We are in their communities ... This is a call to service, a call to action for all of them." 

He suggested having FaceTime interviews with recruits; Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, deputy commanding general of operations of USAREC, encouraged recruiters to "connect in unique ways" with potential soldiers, like through online gaming, something the Army has leaned into heavily over the last year.

Muth added that the number of recruits arriving at Initial Military Training (IMT) is being cut in half to help relieve pressure as recruits are screened and quarantined for two weeks upon arriving, even if they show no symptoms.

Something the Army is working on, he said, is to have new soldiers who have completed their contracts, and are waiting to ship out, assigned to local recruiting battalions to assist with recruitment efforts. They would receive a private's monthly salary.

"It’s the right thing to do, especially if they’re delayed, because many of them have quit their jobs, they have car payments to make, even mortgages or rent for their family, whatever it may be," he said. "It’s the right thing to do, and it sends a great message about the Army and it will help us retain those future soldiers." 

Alongside changes to recruitment, the Army's marketing strategy is also expected to shift to address the challenges the U.S. is facing today, Michaelis explained.

The Army's new commercial campaign, What's Your Warrior, will adapt to be "much more conducive to this idea of call to service," Michaelis said. He encouraged recruiters to take advantage of their social media, by making memes that focus on the question: "How are soldiers helping civilians today?"

"Our nation, we are in crisis right now and we know that — it’s a national emergency," Muth said. "We are soldiers, and we will continue to soldier on."