Every enlisted Soldier that joins the military is required to raise their right hand and swear allegiance to the nation and the U.S Constitution—known as the Oath of Enlistment. This rite of passage is an outwards commitment to the Army that will be carried out through their enlisted contract for a minimum of 8 years-which is broken into different segments of service, including active duty, reserve, and inactive ready reserve (IRR).
For some, one contract is not enough, and many enlisted Soldiers choose to sign on the dotted line more than once. While deployed, six Soldiers of the JTF Med 374 did just that, committing to extend their enlisted contracts and their time in the service.
"Re-enlisting is a big deal," said Capt. Marissa Spitz, JTF MED 374 HHC company commander. "The actual ceremony is more of a formality, but it is still meaningful. A Soldier has the choice to get out or stay in the military. When they decide to stay in, it usually means they have gotten something out of their service so far. Soldiers that stay in have experience and knowledge that new recruits do not have, and with that added potential to grow."
"I joined the Army because I wanted to do something different," said Sgt. Kalley Latham, MCU (MultiCare Unit) LPN. "I liked the opportunities the Army had to offer me. So far, I have got to learn a new set of skills, work in the hospital and deploy. I think I would have re-enlisted even if I was at home, but being here [Iraq] and actually working with real patients and seeing them improve has made a big difference in my decision.”
This will be Latham's first re-enlistment. She looks forward to continuing to serve as an NCO and helping train other Soldiers. She is also enrolled in the next required leadership course and is interested in taking the Unit Prevention Leaders course, an additional duty assigned by the Commander.
Soldiers who choose to conduct formal reenlistment can select the officer of their choosing to guide them through their Oath of Enlistment. Latham chose her supervisor, Capt. Laura Simpson, RN, and OIC for the MCU.
"During the deployment, she has pushed me to do things outside my comfort zone," said Latham. "If there is something I don't know how to do, or something I am not comfortable with, she just tells me, 'Ok, you are going to do it, and I will do it with you.' She is usually smiling when she says it, which made me smile during the Oath of Enlistment part, where you have to say I will obey the orders of the officers appointed over me. She [Simpson] is someone I look up to."
"It was an honor to lead Sgt. Latham in her re-enlistment," said Simpson. "I have been working with her closely since our pre-deployment and has been great being able to see her transition from a Specialist to Sergeant and take on the new roles."
"For the Army, it is a good thing to retain Soldiers," said Command Sgt. Maj Jason Hopkins, JTF 374 Med, Battalion level Command Sgt. Maj. Hopkins has personally completed two re-enlistments and is now serving in the service indefinitely, a status offered to senior-level Soldiers who have reached at least ten years of service, recognizing them as career Soldiers.
The U.S. Army is the only branch of service that allows enlisted Soldiers to serve indefinitely.
"Soldiers who re-enlist are not just extending their time in service. They carry valuable knowledge and experience that needs to be passed on to others. Their level of growth is unlimited to what they can achieve personally as well as the organizations that are assigned. Ultimately, it comes down to the individual Soldier, but the Army has many resources to ensure they are successful," said Hopkins.
Looking at enlistments in the Army overall, Soldiers enlisting for the first time represents when they transition from citizens to an official members of the military and become a protector of the nation, swearing allegiance to the U.S. Constitution and its interests. This rite of passage is proudly uttered by every recruit but is also a completion of many other smaller achievements to be worthy to speak the oath. However, the path to becoming a Soldier is not an option for just anyone. The application process is rigorous, and each candidate must be able to pass other requirements, including background checks, medical examination, height, and weight, as well as meet certain academic standards in math, science, and language.
For several years, the U.S. Military has not struggled to reach its recruitment quotas, allowing it to be more selective in its enlistments. However, the Army has been struggling to hit its recruitment numbers of late, according to an article written in the Stars and Stripes. Last year, the Army was unable to reach its overall goal of 465,000, coming up with 10,000 recruits short. This has put stress on recruiting efforts and how to increase numbers without lowering standards. In the same article, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told Stars and Stripes the biggest challenge for new recruits are the physical and academic requirements stating that America's youth are less qualified. While there are many causes for this, many experts say that COVID-19 and a national rise in obesity may have a connection.
To help boost recruitment numbers, the Army recently launched a referral program where current Soldiers can assist other non-service members in joining the military and can receive a recruitment ribbon award. Up to four awards can be earned, which can also be used towards promotions points that will help the Soldier make it to the next rank.
To become a member of the U.S. Army, recruits must pass body fat requirements, be able to pass the Army's Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), and score a 31 or above on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test (ASVAB).
For recruits struggling with the above, the Army has started offering a delayed entry prep course to help recruits meet the standards.
According to a 2018 Army News Service article, the average cost of training a new recruit is $55,000 to $74,000. This dollar amount comes prior to COVID-19, which could be higher with the economic changes. This variation cost depends on the length of training the Soldier must attend related to their assigned job.