NORTH CANTON, OH — The Army is trying a new tactic when it comes to the fitness of its recruits — restructuring its Recruit Sustainment Program (RSP). That effort has paid off in a lower recruit attrition rate.

Captain Robert H. Paley administers the program, which helps integrate recruits into their new role as soldiers and prepares them for Army basic combat training.

Although the RSP has been around in concept for many years, recent innovations and an active interest on the part of Ohio state leadership have taken the program to a whole new level, Paley said.

Gone are the days when new troops see their recruiter only as long as it takes to enlist them and send them to their unit. Now, new recruits are assigned to the recruiting command and do not report to their units until they return from initial entry training. Individual recruiters act as squad leaders to their new recruits, preparing them both mentally and physically for the challenges they will soon face.

The recently restructured program sees the recruits through three phases. In the red phase, which is the indoctrination phase, newly enlisted troops report to the RSP for their first drill. They receive introductory briefings and attend classes about Army values, personal finance and military customs and courtesies. Recruits enter the white phase, which is the longest phase, during their second drill assembly. During this phase, the troops continue to receive classroom instruction and hands-on training in basic soldiering skills. In the blue phase, recruits attend one final drill assembly before shipping out. They go to Columbus with their recruiters to meet with the battalion staff and receive a physical fitness assessment and overall check to ensure they're ready to report for initial entry training.

Prior to recent improvements in the RSP, training pipeline losses (a statistic that tracks recruits from signing to actually shipping) ran as high as 40 percent. The losses were tough on recruiters who had to cover the same ground twice, Paley said. Since the program started in May, the attrition rate has decreased to about 10 percent, exceeding all expectations and causing a lot of excitement, he said.