Army Utilizes Different Kind Of Boot Camp To Bolster Recruiting Numbers

The recruits are up before dawn at Fort Jackson, an Army base in South Carolina.

Monday, July 10th 2023, 7:01 am

By: CBS News


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The recruits are up before dawn at Fort Jackson, an Army base in South Carolina.

But this is not your father's boot camp. Instructors here act more like personal trainers than drill sergeants. Army Staff Sgt. Ben Thomas says that is intentional.

"Yes, we are treating them a little differently," Thomas told CBS News. "We also want to instill some of the discipline in them, but not necessarily by yelling or screaming at them."

That is because this is prep camp for young men and women who want to join the Army, but cannot meet the body fat limits. They came here to lose weight and qualify for the real boot camp.

"It's not the break 'em down and build 'em back up approach," said Lt. Col. Dan Hayes, who runs the camp.

"We're meeting them halfway to help them achieve the standard, to give them the opportunity to serve alongside of us," Hayes said.

The Army started the camp last fall because of a drastic 25% shortage in recruits in 2022, due in part to the fact that most young people do not meet the basic physical and mental qualifications to serve.

Fort Jackson also provides classes for those who did poorly on the written exam.

Like fellow classmates, recruit Kelly France's final years in high school were spent learning remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It's a lot harder with a teacher in front of you, instead of doing it on a computer," Frances explained to CBS News.

So far, 7,600 have graduated from prep camp to boot camp. That alone won't solve the Army's recruiting problem, but for these young men and women, it's a chance to serve.

First published on July 4, 2023 / 7:40 PM

© 2023 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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