The Pentagon is recruiting thousands of recruits to bolster its forces as it faces a steep shortage of combat-ready troops amid a decade of war and the continuing opioid crisis, the Navy said Friday.
The new recruits, known as arknighters, will join troops on ships as they enter the warzone, as well as on active duty in support of the Navy’s Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserve.
Arknighters will work alongside sailors in support operations, Navy Capt. Matthew Hahn, the program manager for Arknights, said in a statement.
“This is a first of its kind recruiting program that’s specifically focused on those in the service who will support our troops and sailors,” he said.
The Navy will spend $10 million over the next two years to recruit 10,000 to 15,000 arknighter recruits.
The program is aimed at helping fill the gap between the Navy and Marine Corps, which is fighting an opioid epidemic that has killed nearly 4,000 U.S. service members and injured nearly 7,000 since November, when President Donald Trump declared a national emergency over the crisis.
The Marine Corps has been struggling to keep up with demand for troops, especially on the West Coast, which has experienced an unprecedented surge in shipbuilding and construction.
Navy officials said Friday that the arknight program was one of the most cost-effective ways for the Navy to hire new recruits.
While the Marine Corps is expected to have about 100,000 combat-equipped personnel in 2019, the service is currently hiring fewer than 30,000.
The arknighs will help fill the gaps by working with the sailors on ship deployments, Hahn said.
He added that the Navy is targeting the arknight program with the goal of recruiting at least 5,000 each year.
The service has said it plans to hire about 10,500 more arkniers over the course of the year.
For now, the arkwights will be primarily focused on training on the ship’s deck, Hahns statement said.