The US Army has been struggling to rope in new recruits to fill critical military posts as the pandemic continues to rage on furiously in the country. (AP Photo)
Struggling with new recruitment amid coronavirus-related disruptions, the US Army has increased its enlistment bonus by 25 percent, offering $50,000 to recruits who join the military service for six years.
According to a report in the Associated Press (AP), the US Army has been struggling to rope in new recruits to fill critical military posts as the pandemic continues to rage on furiously in the country.
The maximum enlistment bonus has been raised to $50,000 from $40,000, according to the AP report, citing the head of US Army Recruiting Command, Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen.
However, only the "skilled recruits" who show readiness to work for six years in some high-demand and high-pressure military posts are likely to qualify for the attractive payout.
Vereen was quoted by the news agency as saying that COVID-19 lockdowns had severely impeded their recruiting efforts in the wake of closed schools and the competitive job market over the past year.
"We are still living the implications of 2020 and the onset of COVID, when the school systems basically shut down," he said. "We lost a full class of young men and women that we didnít have contact with face-to-face."
Pandemic has made it extremely difficult to recruit in schools and at public events in the worldís worst-hit country, a problem compounded by stiff competition for skilled workforce.
"Weíre in a competitive market," the military official noted. "How we incentivize is absolutely essential, and that is absolutely something that we know is important to trying to get somebody to come and join the military."
Some military careers, such as missile defense crew, special forces, signals intelligence and fire control specialists, according to the AP report, often come with the maximum bonuses.
But other key jobs include infantry, intelligence analyst, combat medic specialist, military police, combat engineer and several others, which are subject to change every month, based on availability.
The US Armyís recruitment bonuses accounted for more than $233 million in the last fiscal year that ended on September 30, significantly down from a record total of more than $485 million in 2018.
The 16,500 fresh recruits were paid an average of more than $14,000 as enlistment bonuses last year.
The dramatic emergence of the highly contagious omicron variant of coronavirus has further compounded the problem, prompting some school systems to shut down.
This week, the number of US patients hospitalized with the new COVID-19 variant hit a record high, prompting the nationís leading infectious disease expert to say that "just about everybody" will be exposed to the new virus strain.
Another, less-emphasized factor in Americans becoming increasingly disdainful of the military service is institutionalized racism in the system, which has quite often manifested itself in violence.
A 2020 survey revealed that more than one-third of all active-duty US troops had witnessed first-hand cases of white nationalism in the ranks, with one expert attributing the rise in extremism to "a higher percentage of extremists attempting to join the military."
There have been innumerable incidents in recent years highlighting the gross abuse of power by the US military, mostly targeting the people of color.