LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — The global coronavirus pandemic has changed life for most people including those young men and women considering a career in the U.S. Army.
Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, commanding general for U.S. Army Recruiting Command, has been working to keep the ranks full through the months of viral turmoil.
Vereen said several changes to protocol have been made beginning with the moment a potential recruit makes contact with a non-commissioned officer to ensure safety and efficiency in the recruitment process.
“Part of it is telling them that they’re going to be safe," he said, "but the second part is showing them that they’re going to be safe.”
Vereen said masks have been mandated, everyone practices social distancing, and strict discipline is adhered to protect the NCOs, potential recruits, and their families at hundreds of recruitment centers around the United States.
Once a recruit has signed their name on the dotted line, the safety measures continue.
Vereen said recruits aren't transported in large groups and instead train in what he called "protective bubbles" to limit spread among prospective soldiers.
“We’re still learning," he said, "I will tell you, the Army is still learning, but the Army never stopped training. So we’re able to understand the environment that we’re operating in, and mitigate the effects of COVID.”
Vereen said new protocols have been effective in meeting the Army's goal of retaining 485,000 active members.
A formula called the in-stream, a combination of recruitment, retention, and attrition or retirement, allowed them to reach the goal.
Vereen said retention remained higher than expected at the beginning of the year so expectation for recruitment dropped.
"The Army is open for business,” he said.
Another concern facing recruits in 2020 has been the potential change in a Commander-in-Chief in a contentious election year.
Vereen said the message for recruits there is the Army, since inception, has served the highest laws of the land.
“First and foremost, we are apolitical,” he said, "regardless of who’s the president of the United States, we serve, and we will serve, and at the end of the day it’s really about the Constitution of the United States.”
He said there have been benefits to service in the U.S. Army lasting beyond a career in service including job training in 150 fields, the respect of American businesses large and small, and job pathways like the Army PaYS program guaranteeing veterans an interview at a participating business of their choice upon discharge.
“For us, I think it’s a win-win situation," Vereen said, "we’re not only taking care of them while they’re serving in our uniform, in the Army, we’re also looking for opportunities to take care of them beyond their military service. To me, that’s important.”
Army officials said businesses in Las Vegas participating in the PaYS program range from the Cosmopolitan Hotel to the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.