BYU ROTC members determined to make a difference despite nationwide struggle to meet recruiting quotas

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Daniel H. Wells ROTC Building on BYU Campus. Cadets take classes and train here for offices in the military after graduation. (Robyn Christensen)

Cadets in the BYU ROTC provided insights on the causes of the nationwide drop in military recruiting numbers and the effects it will have on their future as military officers.

The military has been struggling to meet recruitment goals, and with the Army’s fiscal year ending Sept. 30, some BYU ROTC members said they have mixed feelings about what this means for them.

BYU ROTC member David Word discussed the importance of defending good morals and what the low recruiting numbers could mean for individual motives to join the military.

“It could mean that the Army would have to up the incentives in order to make numbers and fill the ranks,” Word said. “These incentives might attract people to the army who are less interested in morals and freedom, and would ultimately be a detriment to the Army.”

The BYU ROTC program is the largest Army ROTC in the nation. It provides full-tuition scholarships, study abroad programs and a $420 per month stipend for up to ten months as a contracted cadet. Cadets finish the program with an undergraduate degree and receive a presidential appointment as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

Erin Bigelow, a cadet in the ROTC at BYU, talked about the nationwide bonus incentive increase to $50,000. “That had never been done before,” she said. “With lower recruiting numbers, they just incentivize more and more.”

However, Bigelow said her original motive for joining the military was not the incentives; it was to become the director of the CIA.

“I fell in love with the program, because the Army is so much of humanitarian aid,” Bigelow said.

Despite the military’s positive emphasis on education and leadership, Lt. Gen. David Ottignon described the 2022 recruiting year as “arguably the most challenging year in recruiting history.”

This bar graph depicts military recruiting numbers in 2020 and 2021. The military has been struggling to meet quotas over the past few years. (Made in Canva by Robyn Christensen)

The U.S. Army Recruiting Command Official Website reports the current labor market as “the most challenging” since the all-volunteer military began. It also says that 50% of youth admit they know little to nothing about military service and that the Army’s “disconnect with society” as the percentage of veteran declines is a major road block to recruiting and retaining military numbers.

BYU’s National Guard Recruiter Justin Day said he loves serving with the military.

Word said a positive that could come from the low recruiting numbers would mean that it “would lead to platoons of soldiers fighting for the right like never before.”

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