Here Are Soldiers’ Top Choices for First Duty Stations

by Braxton Taylor

Roughly 15,000 recruits in the past two years used one of the Army’s latest recruiting initiatives that allows new soldiers to pick their first duty station, data from the service reviewed by shows.

The top five locations of choice for 2022 and 2023 were Fort Cavazos, Texas; Fort Campbell, Kentucky; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Bliss, Texas; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington. However, those bases don’t necessarily represent popular areas, as duty station options for soldiers are usually in flux and limited based on the new recruit’s job and the needs of the Army at the time they enlist.

In total, roughly 13% of the 112,000 new recruits across the last two years elected to choose their first duty station, service data shows. As the Army faces a historic recruiting slump, the initiative allowing duty station choices is one of the most significant efforts in recent years to court Gen Z, a generation of recruits who are more reluctant to leave their hometowns and want some control over where they live, according to internal Defense Department research.

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Broadly, the top bases for the first duty station of choice are in order of size, presumably meaning those installations have the most empty slots to fill with junior troops. The only outlier was Fort Liberty, North Carolina, home to the Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division, which saw only 15 new recruits volunteer to be stationed there.

For example, no soldiers were listed as choosing to be stationed in Japan, where the Army has a very small footprint. The service’s data did not include Alaska, which is considered a separate duty station choice program, and that data was not provided ahead of publication.

Europe was also a popular choice, but the service’s data doesn’t break down specific installations in Germany and Italy.

Fort Cavazos is the service’s largest installation and sat at the top of the list.

However, the base, previously known as Fort Hood, is also among the Army’s most scandal-scarred locations. It’s where Spc. Vanessa Guillén, a 20-year old soldier, was sexually harassed and murdered in April 2020. The case exposed systemically poor treatment of women in the service and the lack of transparency and competence when it comes to how the service communicates with the public.

A dozen Army officials were eventually fired. How the Army handled Guillén’s murder also caused national outcry, exposed systemic problems of sexual assault at the base and throughout the service, resulted in federal laws overhauling military criminal justice, and lead to a Netflix documentary.

The installation has also had issues keeping its dining facilities open to feed its formations.

Meanwhile, the data also shows that the Southwest, as defined by the Army, is a top recruiting region for the service that includes Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas, Arizona and Nevada — all states that include or are near some of the top first duty stations of choice. In 2022, 8,200 new recruits were recruited from the region.

Though the South provides the bulk of new recruits, it does not appear to be a popular choice for soldiers looking for their first duty stations, according to the data. In 2022, 10,000 new recruits came from the South.

Other regions of the country — New England, the West Coast and the Midwest — saw about 6,300 new recruits each.

Below are the top 10 first duty stations of choice for soldiers and the number of new recruits who selected them in 2022 and 2023:

  1. Fort Cavazos, Texas: 1,917
  2. Fort Campbell, Kentucky: 1,648
  3. Fort Carson, Colorado: 1,512
  4. Fort Bliss, Texas: 1,395
  5. Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington: 1,337
  6. Europe: 1,291
  7. Fort Stewart, Georgia: 943
  8. Hawaii: 880
  9. Fort Drum, New York: 817
  10. Fort Riley, Kansas: 673

Related: Army Sees Sharp Decline in White Recruits

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