Marine recruiters are no longer meeting face-to-face with potential recruits while high schools across the country have shuttered over COVID-19 concerns severely limiting access to future Marine applicants.
But the Corps says its still “planning to make mission” with its recruiting goals despite the numerous hurdles ahead.
The Corps on average needs to ship 30,000 plus recruits to stand on the iconic yellow footprints aboard its recruit depots and with a logjam of incoming recruits already reported at Parris Island, the Marines will have to adapt quickly to hit accessions goals across the force.
The Parris Island, South Carolina, recruit depot has temporarily halted incoming new recruits following a break out of COVID-19 aboard the depot.
However, Gunnery Sgt. Justin Kronenberg, a spokesman for Marine Corps Recruiting Command, says the Corps kicked off the year with a “strong start pool” and will be able to meet its “shipping mission over the next 90 days.”
Current efforts to get service members to voluntarily extend their contracts may not be enough, the Pentagon says.
But he says, that is still dependent on conditions at the recruit depots.
“Commanders have the authority to adjust ship plans to account for specific local impacts due to the pandemic that may make it impractical for poolees from certain areas to leave for recruit training as scheduled,” Kronenberg told Marine Corps Times in an emailed statement.
Kronenberg said the situation is “evolving rapidly” but the Corps expects to “make mission."
“We are making the adjustments necessary to preserve the force, safeguard our families and communities, while working as hard as we can to deliver the young men and women the nation needs for its Marine Corps,” Kronenberg said.
COVID-19 is adding additional burdens and stressors onto an already complicated recruiting landscape where the accessible and qualified talent pool of potential military recruits has been shrinking over the years.
The Corps has previously said that nearly 75 percent of the age-qualified applicants are actually unfit for military service due to medical, moral or educational issues.
“That should scare you,” then-Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert B. Neller, said about the dwindling recruiting prospects during an Oct. 2018 media roundtable.
“Additionally, market research shows that more than 90 percent of America’s youth are disinterested in military service and fewer than 17 percent of parents of those in our target demographic have served in the military, which means our recruiters have to work hard to bridge the so-called civil-military gap,” he said.
The Air Force recently made the decision to shorten its 8.5 week basic training course by a week and a half, and recruits will be sent directly to follow on training upon graduation. The adjustments were made over COVID-19 concerns, Air Force Times reported.
How the Marine Corps will adjust to the temporary logjam at Parris Island is unknown.
Marine Corps Times reached out to the Marine Corps and the Parris Island recruit depot on April 8 regarding what steps the Marines were taking to alleviate the problem. Those questions have yet to be answered.
Discussion about a possible “stop-loss” to keep service-members in beyond their contracts due to potential shortfalls in recruiting over COVID-19 disruptions are occurring but Pentagon officials say the controversial move is unlikely.
“While there are many options, stop-loss is one that would only be considered if absolutely necessary and is an alternative that we will work diligently to avoid,"Lisa Lawrence, a Pentagon spokeswoman, told Military Times. “There have been no formal recommendations for implementing stop-loss at this time.”