WASHINGTON — The Department of the Army announced July 26 the creation of a new program designed to help potential recruits to meet the service’s rigorous enlistment standards.
The Future Soldier Preparatory Course pilot program — set to start in early August at Fort Jackson, South Carolina — will provide education and training to help American youth overcome academic and physical fitness barriers to military service.
“The Future Soldier Prep Course allows recruits, who meet all other qualifications for enlistment, a path to serve,” said Gen. Paul E. Funk II, Commanding General, Training and Doctrine Command. “The young men and women who will participate in this pilot have the desire to improve themselves and want to honorably serve their country. This course is a great way to increase opportunities for them to serve without sacrificing the quality needed across our force.”
The course is in response to the precipitous drop in the number of young Americans meeting Army enlistment standards. Only 23 percent fully meet the Army’s eligibility requirements, down from 29 percent in recent years. The effects of the COVID pandemic over the past two years have only exacerbated barriers to enlistment for many young Americans, with drops in test scores and rising obesity across the nation.
“This course is one of many approaches the Army is taking to invest in America’s young people,” stated Funk. “We have to acknowledge that society has changed and help our youth improve so they can benefit from the training and opportunities that Army service provides. The Army is still the best place for young people to achieve their potential.”
The pilot program will provide focused academic and fitness instruction to help recruits meet the Army’s desired accession standards for body fat composition and academic test performance prior to basic training. It includes two separate tracks: a fitness program and an educational program for recruits who need help improving their scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT).
Individuals in both tracks are projected to remain in the FSPC for a maximum of 90 days, with opportunities every three weeks to leave the program and ship to basic training if they meet or exceed the Army’s desired accession standards.
As part of their pre-enlistment process, all trainees will still have to take the gender-neutral Occupational Physical Assessment Test (OPAT), administered by a recruiter, to qualify for the physical demand level required for an Army MOS prior to their participation in the preparatory course. Access to this program will allow these individuals who already meet all other qualifications for enlistment – to include moral and medical accessions standards – a path to serve. Recruits admitted through this program will further be required to meet all Department of Defense enlistment and training standards, ensuring the overall quality of the force.
Recruits with an Armed Services Voluntary Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) score of 21-30 may only participate in the academic track. Recruits with an ASVAB score between 42-49 may be allowed to voluntarily participate in both tracks, the fitness portion prior to basic combat training and the academic portion following basic training. Individuals who improve their score above a 50 move into the desired higher standard test score categories and are potentially eligible for additional MOS opportunities or enlistment incentives. A score of 31 is the minimum required under current accessions guidelines for recruits in the fitness track.
The fitness course is an expansion of the current Assessment of Recruit Motivation and Strength (ARMS) 2.0 program, which allowed recruits above the two percent body fat standard. Those recruits shipped straight to basic training, were closely tracked throughout their enlistment, and ultimately subject to existing Army physical fitness standards. The
expansion of ARMS 2.0 will place recruits who exceed the accession body fat composition standard by greater than two percent, but no more than six percent in the fitness track of the Future Soldier Preparatory Course.
“This course gives us an opportunity to unleash unrealized potential by surrounding trainees with experts that they likely would not have access to at home,” said Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, the U.S. Army Training Center and Fort Jackson Commanding General. “With the right instruction and professional support, we are confident they will be able to perform successfully and meet the standards expected of every Soldier.”