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Economy Roars, Army Falls Thousands Short of Recruiting Goals – Opinion – Pulselive.co.ke

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The shortfall is due in part to a hot job market that has lured away many recruits at a time that President Donald Trump and Congress seek to expand the military and have raised the number the Army needs to meet.

The Army hoped to bring in about 76,500 new soldiers this year. But with the fiscal year ending this month, it is still 6,500 troops short, even after spending an extra $200 million on bonuses and lowering standards to let in more troops with conduct or health issues.

On top of having to compete with a robust economy, with an unemployment rate below 4 percent, the Army must pick from what it says is a shrinking pool of eligible recruits. More than two-thirds of young adults do not qualify for military service because of poor physical fitness or other issues such as drug use, according to the Army.

“You have fewer people who can serve, they have more opportunities in the job market, that makes it very hard on the Army,” said Beth Asch, a senior economist at the RAND Corp. who studies military recruiting.

The shortfall, representing only about 1 percent of the force, will not leave the Army paralyzed. But it is a sign of growing cultural and economic changes that, if not addressed, could hollow out the Army from within.

The Army has invested in more recruiters and advertising, Asch said, and sweetened the deal for perspective soldiers with bonuses and other benefits. It has also had to soften admissions. This year it gave hundreds more waivers for past drug use than it did a few years ago.

In a statement, the Army said the shortfall was evidence that it was not settling for lower-quality recruits but was instead trying to “raise the quality of our recruits despite the tough recruiting environment.”

“As we look to 2019 and beyond, we have laid the foundation to improve recruiting for the Army while maintaining an emphasis on quality over quantity,” Lt. Col. Emanuel Ortiz said. “Our leaders remain confident we will achieve the Army Vision of growing the regular Army above 500,000 soldiers.”

For years, the military had been heading the other way. Mandatory budget cuts caused the Army to shed more than 100,000 troops from 2010 to 2016. The Army was not only recruiting fewer soldiers but also forcing troops out. It was on course to shrink to 450,000 soldiers in 2017 when Trump did an about-face. Fulfilling a campaign promise to stop the drawdown, he signed a bill that expanded the Army to 476,000. This year it was supposed to grow to 483,500, but actual numbers remained flat.

The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps met their recruiting goals for 2018, but the Army, which is by far the biggest branch of the military, had to recruit more than twice as many troops as other branches. Initially, the Army planned to recruit 80,000 soldiers in 2018 but lowered its goal to 76,500 in April because it was able to retain more soldiers already in the force. That still left a much larger-than-normal task for Army recruiters amid a roaring economy.

At an urgent care center in the suburbs of Denver on Friday, Josh Griffin, a high school senior, had just finished taking a drug test for a new job at a discount tire company down the road. He said that recruiters had talked to him in high school and that the military sounded appealing at first: money for college, a steady job and a way to give back to his country.

But now he sees better options, he said, adding, “I don’t have any doubt in my mind about finding a job.”

The military’s promise of college tuition and other benefits has less of a draw, said Sgt. 1st Class Michael Peppers, the commander of a strip mall recruiting station next to a Subway and a Tasty Tacos in Urbandale, Iowa.

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“We’re competing with other businesses offering the same things,” he said, noting that even McDonald’s has a program to help employees pay tuition.

The military also says it has to pick from young adults who are increasingly unqualified to serve because of mental health issues, criminal convictions or obesity.

“That’s our biggest obstacle,” Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, who until recently was the head of Army recruiting, said in November. He said natural disasters that led to the closing of several recruiting stations, including in the reliably rich recruiting ground of Puerto Rico, also contributed to shortfalls.

The Army faced a similar predicament in 1999, during the dot-com boom. That year, according to a Government Accountability Office report, the Army fell short by about 6,000 recruits. It responded by doubling its recruiting budget, adding enlistment bonuses of up to $20,000 and allowing enlistees it would have turned away in the past, such as those who had no high school diploma but still scored well on Army aptitude tests.

Similar measures are in effect today, Asch, the RAND economist, said. People who cannot pass a body-mass test may still get in on a strength test. Those without a diploma are more likely to get a second chance if they do well on an Army aptitude test. And those with criminal convictions or other misconduct in their past can get waivers if they can show they have overcome past troubles.

Asch said the Army was still well within Defense Department benchmarks and nowhere near the dismal levels reached in the years after the Vietnam War, when recruiting collapsed. In 1979, six of 10 Army divisions stationed in the United States were considered “not combat ready.” In 1980, only half of recruits had graduated from high school (it is now 90 percent), and drug use, crime and unauthorized absences were so rampant that 40 percent of new recruits were expelled.

The Army’s shortfall this year comes as it has sidelined more than 1,100 high-quality recruits, many with graduate degrees and top-tier physical fitness scores, because they are legal immigrants but lack green cards. These recruits were part of a special program called Military Accessions Vital to National Interests, or Mavni, but have been in limbo for years because they have not passed strict security vetting imposed after they enlisted. The Army is trying to discharge them.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Dave Philipps © 2018 The New York Times



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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