These Are the Most Popular Bases New Soldiers Are Volunteering For

·2 min read

Some 6,000 new soldiers recruited this year have chosen their first duty station, as part of a relatively new Army effort to give young troops more flexibility as the service scrambles to make enlisting as enticing as possible amid historic recruiting struggles.

The most popular duty station by far is Alaska, home of the newly revamped 11th Airborne Division, which 825 new soldiers have selected. Fort Polk, Louisiana, had 83 soldiers volunteer for duty there, the fewest among the seven original duty station options the Army set in February.

Since February, the service has slowly expanded the number of first duty stations recruits can choose from. Now, the Army offers 32 options, effectively all of its major bases. The most recent additions in August include bases in Virginia, Maryland and Georgia.

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In July, the Army added some of its premier combat installations including Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; and Vicenza, Italy -- effectively guaranteeing a new recruit can be a paratrooper, or serve in the prestigious 101st Airborne, an air assault division, which can be a powerful recruiting incentive.

The Army aimed to recruit 60,000 new active-duty soldiers into its ranks this year, a goal that the service will fall 15,000 short of, according to Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. In addition to letting soldiers choose where they're stationed, the service has beefed up recruiting bonuses and kicked off a program in which recruits who otherwise were out of compliance with weight standards can lose weight and qualify for service. It also allows other applicants who failed the entrance exam to get tutoring.

The sheer number of volunteers might not paint a full picture of where troops want to go. Whether a soldier is assigned to a specific base of their choosing ultimately depends on vacancies for their job specialty. For example, in July, Korea only had 11 different job options.

Requests for Original Six Locations New Recruits Could Choose From:

Alaska: 825

Fort Carson, Colorado: 679

Fort Hood, Texas: 657

Fort Drum, New York: 293

Fort Riley, Kansas: 202

Fort Polk, Louisiana: 83

Full List of Requests:

Alaska: 825

Fort Carson, Colorado: 679

Fort Campbell, Kentucky: 659

Fort Hood, Texas: 657

Europe: 546

Fort Bliss, Texas: 475

Fort Lewis, Washington: 475

Hawaii: 415

Fort Stewart, Georgia: 392

Fort Drum, New York: 293

South Korea: 232

Fort Riley, Kansas: 202

Fort Polk, Louisiana: 83

Fort Benning, Georgia: 76

Fort Irwin, California: 42

Fort Sill, Oklahoma: 42

Fort Meade, Maryland: 30

Fort Eustis, Virginia: 15

Fort Gordon, Georgia: 15

Fort Story, Virginia: 10

Fort Belvoir, Virginia: 8

Fort Bragg, North Carolina: 8

Lackland Air Force Base, Texas: 5

Fort Rucker, Alabama: 5

Fort Detrick, Maryland: 3

Fort Huachuca, Arizona: 2

Fort Knox, Kentucky: 1

Fort Lee, Virginia: 1

Fort Sam Houston, Texas: 1

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Related: Given the Choice, Many New Soldiers Are Picking 'Tough' Alaska as Their 1st Duty Station