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Military turns to immigrants to fight recruiting shortfalls

  • The military is recruiting legal immigrants to fill a recruiting shortfall
  • The program offers a fast-tracked path to gaining citizenship
  • The Air Force, Army and Navy are projected to not meet enlistment goals

(NewsNation) — The Pentagon is now looking to immigrants to overcome a recruiting shortfall.

The Air Force and Army are utilizing a program that allows legal migrants to apply for accelerated naturalization when they join the military.

The Air Force saw 14 recruits be naturalized as U.S. citizens under the program in April. The cadets came from Cameroon, Jamaica, Kenya, the Philippines, Russia and South Africa.

The program was last in play for the Air Force in 2017 and has in recent months been restarted by that service and the Army.

Officials say the Army and Air Force are 10,000 recruits short of their goals, while the Navy is 6,000 short. Only the Marines and Space Force are expected to hit those goals.

Military officials think that that has to do with increased competition among jobs in the private sector and more Americans not hitting academic and fitness requirements. It’s why leaders see the renewal of the fast-track citizenship program as a possible solution.

Steve Beynon, an Afghanistan veteran and reporter for, says the Department of Defense needs to “pull out all the stops” to meet its enlistment goals.

The Army and the Air Force have bolstered their marketing to entice legal residents to enlist, putting out pamphlets, working social media and broadening their outreach, particularly in inner cities. One key element is the use of recruiters with similar backgrounds to these potential recruits.

“For people that might be interested in joining the military, there’s a bigger chance (they will) if their first introduction to the military, usually through a recruiter, (is by someone who) looks like them,” Beynon said on “NewsNation Now.” “So, diversity among recruiters is a huge thing in the military, it’s something strive for with different nationalities and backgrounds to speak to different kinds of people to expand that pool of people as much as they can.”

The military has also recently started programs to prepare possible recruits for basic training through physical and academic training meant to bring them up to standards.

Some of those recruits in the fast-track citizenship program require extra security screening and help filling out forms if they aren’t as proficient in English.

The first group of 14 in the Air Force included several who are seeking various medical jobs, while another wants to be an air transportation specialist.

“I think the people in the military from what I hear is they are happy to bring in anyone that meets the standards, and they want a diverse (group) of people to build their ranks,” Beynon said. “These people bring things to the table, to the military.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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