Amidst a tough environment for military recruiting, the U.S. Army leaders at Picatinny Arsenal and across the nation launched a novel initiative in September to inspire its civilian workforce to answer a "call to service" in the nation's largest military branch.
But it surprised even her commander when Sarah Worthy, a management analyst at the Rockaway Township base, stepped forward.
The 27-year-old from Chatham Township will report to recruiter training this week after enlisting last month in the Army Reserves. An employee at Picatinny's Network Enterprise Center, she will also undergo Airborne training, followed by a 10-day psychological assessment and operations training.
"I feel conviction as well as an opportunity," said Worthy, who grew up in North Carolina. "I've been working at the Arsenal for three years and it's fine, but not the only thing I wanted to do."
Army leaders in Washington announced last year that they had fallen short of recruitment goals for fiscal year 2022 by 25%, or about 15,000 soldiers. In July, the service cut its projection for the overall size of its force for this fiscal year by 10,000 and predicted another decline in 2023.
As a result of the shortfall, the branch has ramped up recruiting efforts, including at Picatinny, which develops and tests weapons for the military. The Arsenal's senior commander, Brig. Gen. John T. Reim, sent an email in September to the mostly civilian workforce at Picatinny with the subject line, “Call to Service.”
"We are engaged in a war for talent, and failure is clearly a threat to national security," Reim wrote. "Coming out of COVID and facing the same tight labor market that has left many employers struggling to find talent, the Army’s recruitment has hit its lowest rate in the five decades of our all-volunteer Army, 60% below its FY22 requirement."
Worthy, who holds a Juris master's degree from Liberty University, is one of about 6,000 civilians, contractors and military personnel staffing Picatinny Arsenal, also known as the Joint Center of Excellence for Guns and Ammunition. The base provides products and services to all branches of the U.S. military.
As the daughter of an Army chaplain, Worthy had frequently expressed an interest in military service, "but I never went through with it," she said in an interview.
Reim's email changed all that.
"I'm a woman of faith and I prayed for guidance," she said. "When I saw the email I thought, 'well, if that isn't a sign, then what is?'"
“I wasn’t expecting one of our own to step up and answer the call,” said Reim, who swore Worthy into service on Dec. 22.
Her father, Army Lt. Col. Shay Worthy, currently garrison chaplain at Fort Huachuca in Arizona, said his daughter had often spoken of entering the military or FBI, so he wasn't surprised about the decision.
"It was more like 'It's about time!' " he said with a laugh, adding "I'm proud of what she has already done."
The call of duty comes with tangible benefits including a $13,000 signing bonus and a $50,000 student loan repayment option as enlistment incentives.
“We are looking for motivated men and women like Sarah to join the Army team,” said Capt. Brian Fydenkevez, commander of the Army's North Jersey Recruiting Company. Still, he said, “only one in three people is eligible to join the Army based on our demanding academic, physical, and moral standards."
Worthy's full-time position with the NEC is legally protected while she’s away at training for the Army Reserves and if she ever gets called up to active duty. "That's how it works for everyone, not just at Picatinny," she said.
William Westhoven is a local reporter for DailyRecord.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
This article originally appeared on Morristown Daily Record: Picatinny Arsenal NJ employee enlists as Army fights recruitment gap