New Survey Examines Why Soldiers Decide To Stay In or Leave The Army

Reserve Drill Sergeants conduct AT

US Army Drill Sergeants conduct “Shark Attack” training on the first day of Basic Combat Training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, June 12, 2017. Future recruits can rest easy as this was recently banned. US Army photo by Sgt. Philip McTaggart.

Over 50,000 Soldiers responded to the first-ever Department of the Army Career Engagement Survey, or DACES, during its first year of collection, Army officials recently announced.

DACES is an important retention tool, allowing active-duty Soldiers to share their thoughts about continued military service to Army senior leaders. The customized survey tailors questions to the individual Soldier based on their career field as well as their responses to previous questions.

Survey results will be available to Army leaders in the near future via a shared data platform, giving them objective data on the views of Soldiers within their formations. Leaders will have the ability to filter results by rank, career field, gender and race, giving leaders an accurate assessment of concerns in key demographics, while maintaining the privacy of individual Soldiers.

Army career survey

U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire a 120mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency. US Army photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/Released via DVIDS.

U.S. Army Rangers assigned to 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, fire a 120mm mortar during a tactical training exercise on Camp Roberts, Calif., Jan. 30, 2014. Rangers constantly train to maintain the highest level of tactical proficiency. US Army photo by Pfc. Nathaniel Newkirk/Released via DVIDS.

“The inaugural DACES report provides an initial look into the insights that can be derived from DACES. The report leverages consented responses from active-duty Soldiers and confidentially shares key findings with both Army senior leaders and the force at large,” said Dr. Loryana Vie, a senior researcher at the Army Analytics Group’s Research Facilitation Laboratory.

DACES has already provided Army senior leaders with key insights into the reasons Soldiers decide to either stay in the Army or depart.

“DACES provides objective information from thousands of Soldiers,” said Brig. Gen. Brett Funck, the Director of the Army Talent Management Task Force. “The Army can analyze this information to gain a rich understanding of how Soldiers feel and what their future potential decisions are based on.”

According to the survey, Soldiers most commonly cited the opportunity to serve their country as an “extremely important” reason to stay in the Army. Other frequently-cited reasons to stay included salary, retirement pay and benefits as well as the opportunity to lead Soldiers.

“Life in the Army is challenging but rewarding. Demographics in the Army change; DACES helps leaders understand how Soldiers, married Soldiers, and Soldiers with families view important career and professional decisions,” Funck said.

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U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division move to their objective in an M1A2 Tank during Decisive Action Rotation 20-01 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., October 4, 2019. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nathan Franco, Operations Group, National Training Center.

U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 37th Armor Regiment, 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division move to their objective in an M1A2 Tank during Decisive Action Rotation 20-01 at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, Calif., October 4, 2019. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Nathan Franco, Operations Group, National Training Center.

The effects of Army life on their families, their spouses’ careers and relationships were the most important reasons Soldiers cited for potentially leaving the Army.

Previous exit surveys only targeted Soldiers already leaving the Army, while this survey allows all active-duty Soldiers to provide their current motivations to stay in or leave the service. DACES can also show how respondents’ answers may change over time, while still maintaining the anonymity of Soldiers.

The Army will publish the results of DACES each year. The findings will be used to help the Army improve retention and quality of life. Soldiers will be sent invitations to take the 10-minute survey annually during their birth month and are encouraged to take it each year to provide their input. Soldiers will also receive an invitation to take DACES within 180 days of their retirement or separation date.

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