The military released the results of a new annual exit survey on November 19, revealing why soldiers have chosen to quit the military in recent years. But this investigation is different from other exit investigations, military officials said, because it also asks soldiers who choose to remain in uniform why they stay.
The new and enhanced Department of the Army Career Engagement Survey, or DACES, will also allow Army leaders to anonymously track the reasons soldiers stay in the active-duty force throughout. their career. Troops receive an annual invitation to complete the DACES questionnaire during their birth month, and they also receive an invitation 180 days before their separation date.
The investigation was a major effort of the Army Talent Management Task Force, according to military statements.
“DACES provides objective information from thousands of soldiers,” said task force director Brig. General Brett Funck. “The military can analyze this information to gain a deep understanding of how soldiers feel and what their potential future decisions are based on.”
The results have been communicated to top military officials in recent months, according to an army official involved with DACES. It is not yet clear whether any new policies or initiatives will immediately emerge from the project.
The military plans to use the data to improve quality of life, the statement added.
Why soldiers leave the army
According to nearly 38,000 soldiers whose investigations were analyzed, the main reasons for leaving the army were related to their families. But even taking these factors into account, the army’s retention is strong – the service retained nearly 2,000 troops more than its retention target for fiscal 2021.
Troops interviewed said these were the top five reasons for leaving the military. The the percentages indicate how many soldiers felt the factors were “extremely” or “somewhat” important to their decisions:
- Effects of deployments on family or personal relationships – 51.9%
- Impacts of life in the army on the career plans and goals of those close to you: 48.3%
- Impacts of life in the military on family plans for children – 47.2%
- The degree of stability or predictability of army life – 43.6%
- Impact of military service on the well-being of my family – 43.2%
The survey also highlights trends among demographic groups in their reasons for leaving.
Junior officers were more likely to report wanting to leave the military due to work-life balance issues that impacted their families. And women were more concerned than men about the impact of military life on their ability to raise a family.
Junior enlisted soldiers were more likely to report that perceived unfairness in promotions contributed to their decision to leave the service.
Why the troops choose to stay
Troops interviewed said these were the top five reasons for staying in the military. The percentages indicate how many soldiers rated the factors as “extremely important” to them:
- Opportunity to serve my country – 53.5%
- How well will my salary or retirement benefits meet my future needs – 45.1%
- Opportunities to lead or train soldiers – 43.5%
- My sense of purpose – 38.1%
- How well my salary or benefits meet my current needs – 37%
Executives were more influenced than other groups by their compensation and retirement benefits, as well as their “sense of purpose.” More than half – 50.9% of senior officers – said their goal was an “extremely important” reason to stay in uniform.
Black and Hispanic servicemen, as well as junior enlisted troops, identified educational benefits as a reason to stay in the military at a higher rate than other demographic groups.
What else does the report show?
The DACES report also shows some examples of how military chiefs can filter and analyze data based on interviewees’ job, family, duty station, or other factors.
Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Division, for example, were more likely than Army Baseline to identify “the effects of deployments on family or personal relationships” or work / life balance outside. deployments as reasons for leaving the service.
The report also shows that Army aviation officers and warrant officers are more likely to cite “quality of life” as the reason for going out.
Aviation officers are also less likely to worry about civilian career opportunities if they leave.
Army officials hope the data analysis will “empower” leaders to make political decisions and tailor initiatives to improve retention and quality of life, the statement said.
Davis Winkie is a staff reporter covering the Army. He initially joined Military Times as a trainee journalist in 2020. Prior to journalism, Davis worked as a military historian. He is also a human resources officer in the Army National Guard.