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Army opts to revamp recruiting

| Friday, Aug. 10, 2012, 10:56 p.m.
Roschea Bell, 17, of Penn Hills takes the Army's oath as she enlists during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. 
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Roschea Bell, 17, of Penn Hills takes the Army's oath as she enlists during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Navy veteran Joe Hartman, 75, of Mt. Pleasant stands as new Army recruits take their oath as they enlist during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. 
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Navy veteran Joe Hartman, 75, of Mt. Pleasant stands as new Army recruits take their oath as they enlist during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Augustine Kopcho, 79, of Central, PA a Marine Corp. veteran, salutes the playing of the National Anthem during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. 
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Augustine Kopcho, 79, of Central, PA a Marine Corp. veteran, salutes the playing of the National Anthem during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
New Army recruits line up in formation during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. 
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
New Army recruits line up in formation during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Ssgt Nick Davis, 27, of Rillton, holds his sons, Keaton, 2, and Bennett, 1, after a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. 
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Ssgt Nick Davis, 27, of Rillton, holds his sons, Keaton, 2, and Bennett, 1, after a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Sfc. Richard Bettis is reflected in the window of a humvee during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. 
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Sfc. Richard Bettis is reflected in the window of a humvee during a ceremony at Monroeville Mall for the opening of a new Army Career Center on Friday, August 10, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review

Cushy furniture, warm colors and a signed Jack Lambert Steelers jersey are replacing a couple of desks and an American flag as the only furnishings of a new Army recruiting center in the Monroeville Mall.

“Part of the idea behind this design was to make the applicants feel comfortable, like a coffee shop,” said Capt. Glenn Mallia, commander of the Pittsburgh company.

The recruiting center is representative of the largest shift in recruitment since the military adopted a volunteer Army in 1973. The change is brought on by the troop drawdown in the Middle East and looming questions about the Defense budget.

In “legacy recruiting,” the Army's traditional model, an individual recruiter walked future soldiers through every step of becoming a soldier.

“The individual recruiter used to do it all,” said Lt. Col. Brian Jenkins, commander of the Harrisburg Recruiting Battalion.

By next September, the Army hopes to shift much of its recruitment efforts to “Pinnacle recruiting” in centers such as the one in Monroeville.

In the new model, three specialized teams work under the direction of a center commander. One team will travel through communities identifying potential soldiers, another will help ensure all of recruits' paperwork is in order and the third will prep recruits mentally and physically for basic training.

“This, to me, is a lot better. Before the recruiter had that one individual to train, where now they can focus on one part of the training mission and then we pass (recruits) on to someone else,” said Sgt. 1st Class Jacqueline Crutchfield, the Monroeville recruiting center's commander.

The Pittsburgh battalion will be the second in the country to use the new model, following the lead of Los Angeles, which has been using it for about a year. Most of the Army is expected to make the switch by next September.

One advantage of the Pinnacle model is that it allows the Army to use fewer recruiters in a time when it is attempting to downsize.

Mallia said that rather than having an average of seven or eight traditional recruiters in six stations, he will now have about nine specialized recruiters in three recruiting centers.

The other centers, one of which will be in Century III Mall and another in the North Hills, will open by September 2013.

“We gave up some office space and some territory, but the way the Army's going, we have to do more with less,” Mallia said.

Another factor in decreasing the number of troops is a toughened set of admission standards.

A policy shift in May, for instance, required that female recruits have no more than 30 percent body fat, down from 32 percent. Male recruits can have no more than 24 percent fat, down from 26 percent.

Only one in four people between 17 and 24 years old meet all the requirements for service, Jenkins said.

“The Army is not the last resort the way it used to be. It's actually easier to get into college now” than it is to get into the Army with its strict requirements, he added.

Adam Wagner is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7956 or adamwagner@tribweb.com.

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