Cover: Soldier Preferences and Retention Effects of Changes in Army Reserve Training Requirements

Soldier Preferences and Retention Effects of Changes in Army Reserve Training Requirements

An Exploration of Revealed and Stated Behavior

Published Nov 16, 2021

by Craig A. Bond, Ellen M. Pint, Stephan B. Seabrook, Christina Panis

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Research Questions

  1. How do changes in training requirements affect a soldier's interest in staying in the USAR?
  2. How do soldiers' personal situations affect their availability and/or motivation to participate in the USAR as training demands change?

Soldiers in the U.S. Army Reserve (USAR) have traditionally been required to attend 39 days of training per year: one weekend per month (24 days, equivalent to 48 periods of inactive duty training [IDT]) and 15 days (about two full weeks) of annual training (AT). However, across the readiness cycle, some units may have increased training requirements, while others may have their requirements changed with minimal notice. The authors examine how changes in training requirements affect soldiers' interest in staying in the USAR and how their civilian employment and family situations influence that decision.

The authors examined administrative data on USAR soldiers and units to identify past changes in unit-level training requirements and whether they affected soldier retention or transfers to other units. The authors also surveyed currently serving Troop Program Unit soldiers to gather information on the effects of changes in training requirements on their retention intentions and their preferences for different training options.

In their analysis of the survey, the authors found that, on average, soldiers prefer a slight increase in the number of AT days (2.5–3 weeks, or 18–21 days) and prefer the status quo of 48 IDT periods. In addition, most soldiers prefer a weekend IDT schedule to shifting some training to weeknights and one continuous period of AT rather than splitting it into multiple periods. However, these averages obscure important differences in preferences across the sample, prompting the authors to review how demographic and service-related characteristics affect intentions to stay in the USAR.

Key Findings

  • Soldiers in higher pay grades and who had one or more children and higher education levels were less likely to separate from the USAR, as were enlisted personnel who were African American, Asian, or Pacific Islanders.
  • Reserve soldiers planning to stay in the USAR beyond their current obligation prefer a slight increase in AT (but not up to four weeks) and the status quo 48 periods of IDT per year.
  • Most soldiers reported preferring a weekend IDT schedule to shifting some training to weeknights and preferring one continuous period of AT rather than splitting it into multiple periods.
  • An increase in AT of a week or more from the current two weeks would result in a statistically significant share of officers who were planning to stay under the old policy instead choosing to leave the USAR.
  • Retention intentions would be decreased if the minimum IDT level per policy were decreased to fewer than 48 periods per year for both enlisted personnel and officers.

Recommendations

  • The USAR should not expand AT beyond three weeks if retention is a priority.
  • The USAR should not reduce IDT periods if AT is expanded to between two and three weeks in order to maintain retention intentions.
  • The USAR should continue to follow a weekend IDT schedule and a single, continuous period of AT.
  • The USAR should offer options with varying levels of training requirements that could help meet the preferences of a wider range of Troop Program Unit soldiers.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within RAND Arroyo Center.

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