Stephen. L, in his article, “Trying to grow everywhere”, expressed an understanding of the problem the Air Force is facing regarding recruitment and retention of Airmen particular Catholic Priests as Chaplains. He also observed that the shortage of personnel is also a big problem effecting Catholic Chaplain Recruiters. His focus was on how to solve the problem so that the recruiters will have better opportunities to reach their annual target (2017). According to Maj Gen Garret Harencak Commander HQs Recruiting, relaxing most of the rules to meet annual number of people targeted for recruitment, especially when it comes to active duty Catholic priests will be the best way to go. As a catholic priest recruiter, I will point out obvious problems affecting the Air Force in this regard and what this approach would do in the long run through fixing a problem and creating another down the road.
To fix the problem, the Air Force would have to offer a financial incentives for Catholic Priests to make the job attractive like other AFSCs. If this is done, it could create a problem where chaplains of other faith denomination will ask for the same incentives in other to remain in the air force hence this might create a big problem or IG complaint creating. I will also add that, offering bonus incentives to the Diocesan bishops might make it easier for them to release their priest to active duty for at least a five years commitment. This could solve the issue of meeting the need at present and maybe lead to retention. I believe this approach would succeed in solving the problem in the future. These are some of the solution I will be offering my commander in the recruiting office to consider as we are trying to look for answers to this critical shortage.
Pinter in this article listed five reasons why people leave the military; being tough on family especially during deployment and having to deal with training all the time (2017). In addition, the uncertainty of the work schedule was mentioned. Thinking that those in civilian world got it better especially since military life could be the only career they have had was another reason identified. Similarly seeing the military as means to pay off debts or school loans.
The article identified that most people joined just to travel the world and enjoy themselves but when they come face to face with the tough side of military life they chose leaving as the only alternative although within them, they may still love to remain in the military (Pinter, 2017). This is mainly so with protestant chaplains, but for the catholic chaplains the reason these men join the air force is purely to fulfill their vocational call to serve. They already have secure jobs as civilian priests and once again as I mentioned above, they live a very comfortable life in their parishes and are their own bosses with no military bureaucracy and no deployment to a combat zoon. Priests chose to leave because the demands of the military does not equate to the life they are used to in the civilian world.
In his article, Scully acknowledge that the Air Force is meeting annual recruit target but retention is where the Air has continued to struggle (2016). The career filed the article considered was flyers. The article mentioned that there has been measures used to increase retention rate. It has been about bonuses in the form of pay. Apart from flyers the article observed that some enlisted career fields have been offered some monetary bonuses to get them to reenlist (Scully, 2016).
However, it was observed that packages that involved improving the living condition of Airmen have been the most effective incentive to get them to stay in the service, granted that we are asking these priests who are already living a very comfortable life in a civilian parish, making decisions on how they should run their parishes, to leave that and take something with a lower salary.
We cannot deny the fact that retention is a problem in the Air Force. If we can link recruitment to retention it would make our job of dealing with retention easier. To solve this problem, the air force will really need to adjust the standards or recruiting requirements as mentioned above like age, which is usually a disqualifier in many cases and also offer an incentive package for them. There must be a communication change from recruiters with the bishops to release priest maybe for three or five years of service so that we don’t just get priests who may have service a long time in their respective diocese and just looking for something to do in their later years of service. We need to change that recruiting narrative, that we need young priests who will serve the needs of the air force especially in deployed situations where they are very much needed. Right from the beginning, we as recruiters need to truly offer them what kind of life they will experience if and when they join the service. Equally, we must let the priests we are recruiting know why the Air Force exist and what the expectations are.
This is very important because most of the time people leave because the promises made to them when they joined are not fulfilled or the had a different expectation from what military life is all about. The promises cannot be fulfilled unless they are communicated.
In conclusion, in as much as strong recruiting cannot be the answer to retention problem in the Air Force, it will help to improve the rate of retention. The recruiter is the link between the Air Force and those coming in so addressing the ‘why’ for both parties would depend heavily on recruitment. Those coming in should be educated on why the Air Force exists and the Air Force should be aware of what is driving each individual to join so as to know how to make them stay.