AUSTIN, Texas — Fighting the wind and her dad in tow on his mountain bike, Alyza Nuñez runs her usual route around Pearson Ranch Middle School in far North Austin. It beats running on a track.  

“I’m running to get fit for the military,” Alyza Nuñez said. 

What You Need To Know

  • The Army missed its recruiting mission for Fiscal Year 2022 by 25% or 15,000 soldiers

  • The San Antonio Recruiting Batallion covering Central and South Texas and parts of the El Paso region has been successful recruiting for the Army

  • More branches are expecting recruiting shortfalls for Fiscal Year 2023 which ends September 30th, 2023

Alyza has been adamant about enlisting and despite some initial pushback from her father, she is officially an Army recruit.  

“While I’m in the military, I can learn skills for whatever I want to do in the future,” she said of her decision.  

The 17-year-old is preparing for boot camp with encouragement from her dad, who follows on foot when he can and rides his bike when he can’t.  

“I tried to talk her out of it a few times, but in the end she’s going to make up her mind when she gets to her age and stuff like that, so all I can do is support her.” Israel Nuñez. 

Israel became a little more comfortable with the decision after speaking with an Army recruiter.  

Sgt. Felix Ramirez says one of the best things he can do as a recruiter is to explain to families what life is like in the Army.  

“We’re trying to provide more information, trying to take more equipment to the schools and trying to have the community more engaged with what we do on a daily basis.” Sgt. Ramirez said. 

Sgt. Ramirez’s office is located in Austin. He says his office has met its recruitment mission for Fiscal Year 2023, which ends Sept. 30. His office also is a part of the San Antonio Recruiting Battalion, which was a top recruiting command unit for FY 2022. 

It’s a bright spot in an otherwise difficult situation within the Army. The Army missed its recruiting goal in FY 2022 by 25% or 15,000 active-duty soldiers. 

While other branches met their goals by slim margins, FY 2023 projections are bleak. 

Alyza Nuñez, an Army recruit, is exercising daily to prepare for boot camp. (Spectrum News 1/Agustin Garfias)

During a FY 2024 Budget Request for Military Readiness hearing on April 19, military leaders updated the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on recruiting projections for current FY 2023. The Army and Air Force estimate they’ll miss their goal by 10,000, while the Navy expects to be short by 6,000 sailors. 

The Marine Corp and Space Force testified expectations to make their recruiting mission, though the Space Force has a much smaller goal to meet than other branches. 

Sgt. Ramirez says the shortfall can affect mission readiness. 

“When we have a lack of numbers out mission readiness, our potential, our training events and stuff like that comes to somewhat of a halt,” Sgt. Ramirez said. “They slow down because we don’t have the manpower.”

The Department of Defense cites a few reasons for the recruiting struggles. 

“There’s a lower propensity to serve,” Major Michael Siani with Recruiting Station Dallas told Spectrum News 1 in January. 

Maj. Siani says the Marine Corps is still feeling the compounded effects of COVID-19. 

“Roughly 75% of the eligible population cannot meet the DOD’s requirements to enlist or commission,” Maj. Siani said. “That has to do with medical, moral and mental requirements.” 

A survey conducted by the Army in Spring and Summer of 2022 showed some of the Army’s bigger hurdles are that young people don’t want to die or get injured, deal with the stress of the Army or put their lives on hold. 

Alyza is choosing to look at her time in the Army as a valuable use of her time while she decides the next steps in her life. But she is open to reenlisting if she enjoys her time serving her country.