Success of First-Term Soldiers

The Effects of Recruiting Practices and Recruit Characteristics

by Richard Buddin


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This monograph examines the relationship between recruiting practices and conditions and the first-term success of Army soldiers. Success in the first term is important to the Army because recruiting soldiers is expensive. If soldiers fail to complete their first terms, the Army must recruit others to replace them, effectively doubling the cost. Given the expense of recruiting, the Army should reassess whether some management strategies could improve the success rates for first-term soldiers. Events in a soldier’s first term that show a statistically significant relation to early loss include length of time in the Delayed Entry Program, gender (women have consistently higher rates of attrition at each stage of the first enlistment), and education (soldiers without high school diplomas drop out at an increased rate beginning with advanced individual training). Attrition can also vary depending on the training installation, but high loss rates during basic training have no effect on subsequent attrition. Thus, it does not appear that applying higher standards in basic training reduces subsequent attrition in the enlistment cohort. All other things being equal, soldiers in combat arms have higher attrition rates than do those in other occupations. Finally, promotion correlates positively with retention. Equally interesting are the influences that do not appear to make a major difference. These include participation in the Army College Fund, term of enlistment, the recruiting environment, and characteristics of recruiters. Recommendations include shorter time in the Delayed Entry Program for high school seniors, a revisiting of the fitness training unit concept, and imposition of consistent training standards and policies. The monograph also recommends exploring policies to help at-risk demographic groups such as women and recruits who hold GEDs, as well as a review of the promotion program to ensure that the most able soldiers are getting promoted.

Table of Contents

Chapter One:


Chapter Two:

Data and Analysis Framework

Chapter Three:

DEP Attrition

Chapter Four:

Fitness Training Participation

Chapter Five:

BCT Attrition

Chapter Six:

Early Attrition

Chapter Seven:

First-Term Attrition

Chapter Eight:

Promotion and Reenlistment

Chapter Nine:

Conclusions and Recommendations


Differences in Recruit Characteristics on BCT and Early Attrition from Base to Base

Reenlistment Intention Patterns and Reasons for Initial Enlistment

Formal Model of Promotion and Reenlistment Behavior

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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