Newsline , Society

Face Up To Military Recruitment Problems

Posted on Thursday, September 8, 2022
by Outside Contributor

British coal miners used to carry small metal cages containing a canary into the tunnels to help detect carbon monoxide and other deadly gases before they incapacitated or killed the miners. The practice fell out of use in the 1980s, but the term “canary in a coal mine” became a euphemism for an early warning of a threat.

The concerning shortfalls in military recruitment may be a canary we should watch closely. It may mean replenishing the all-volunteer force is no longer a given.

From 2004 to 2006, I was a Marine major assigned to the Recruiting Station in Baltimore, where we covered Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia and visited high schools in the worst and best quarters of both cities and the suburbs. The destruction from September 11 was not yet assigned to history books, the violence in Iraq was at its apex, and we found many high school administrators — public and private — were significantly limiting our access to speak with students. We also saw many teenagers in elite private schools just as interested in military service as their public school counterparts. 

But regardless of circumstance, enlisting for all of them was an honorable way to break free from conventional expectations and prove themselves on rigorous terms. Almost all of the young men and women we recruited deployed at some point in the coming years, with some losing their lives in service.

It has been almost 20 years and a generation removed from that challenging recruiting period, but for years to follow the Marine Corps always “made mission” and replenished annual attrition with an equivalent number of new recruits. Today, the challenges seem different. Some of those differences were sown in 2004-2006 with a war many questioned in suburban America and in the halls of Congress.

In 2008, following a deployment to Iraq, I was a lieutenant colonel assigned as a Congressional Fellow to the Senate. The war in Iraq had changed, and the debates I witnessed were becoming more about taking care of the troops when they returned home. What I heard disturbed me. The rhetoric from many in Congress depicted our troops as either unheralded heroes or broken victims, many purportedly “ticking time bombs” with post-traumatic stress disorder. Employers were reluctant to hire veterans in this environment, and the stigma from the media and politicians remained. It mattered little if someone never had a traumatic combat experience; many were convinced the troops had all been adversely affected by their deployments.

After we withdrew from Iraq, Afghanistan became the “good war” for some pundits and armchair generals. But Afghanistan also soured with time, and both major political parties eventually agreed we needed to scale back, sometimes for different reasons. When we finally left Afghanistan, the evacuation was a debacle, with dead and maimed troops and thousands of allies left behind.

In the last two decades, a new American generation has come of age, from toddlers to teenagers, with the internet and iPhones as their windows to the world. There were other societal changes emerging as they grew up: the lack of routine physical activity for young children, the legalization of recreational marijuana use and the destigmatizing effect that has had on young attitudes, along with a focus on gender equity and then transgender equity, viewpoints that are meritorious, but don’t always mesh well with the Spartan intrusiveness of military life on one’s privacy. 

With wall-to-wall media coverage of the failings of our government institutions and elected leaders, our democratic process has seen an erosion of public trust and confidence, spurring questions about ethics and competence.

It should come as no surprise then that impressionable young people often look with skeptical or jaundiced eyes at the noble value of military service or question the rightness of that service in this period of historical and moral equivalencies. We must examine the root causes of their ambivalence or distrust and discuss how communities can instill a sense of civic and national pride in our youth because this canary in the coal mine could be more fragile than we comprehend.

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1 year ago

A good analysis of the fall of the US military from the best to the questionable. Thank the military leaders from Obama’s era and onward who idiotically supported Socialist and Woke ideology.

Michael J
Michael J
1 year ago

The face of our military now runs parallel with woke society where the job is not measured by duty, honor or fidelity but by feelings. Cowering to the least qualified and citing political correctness has taken it’s toll by government officials who distance themselves, while sending men and women into harm’s way.
Speed of the leader, speed of the gang.

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

West Point is BRAINWASHING and DESTROYING our Cadets with LIES making them WEAK with that GARBAGE Critical Race Theory. That’s just it…A Made Up Theory.
Teaching cadets ‘Queer Theory and Policy’ among other GARBAGE.
We have Cadets to be TRAINED in WARFARE and WINNING.
NOT FASCIST liberal policies. That is NOT the Military’s job.
So instead of teaching and training our Cadet’s and Active Duty to FIGHT and WIN WARS they are BRAINWASHED to worry about FAGGOTS and what COLOR they are.
You DON’T WIN WARS with BRAINWASHED Cadet’s and Active Duty with Critical Race Theory. As I said, a Theory. NOT FACT.

David Millikan
David Millikan
1 year ago

You will NEVER WIN a WAR. When you turn Military into Commie Correctness thinking you already LOST.
Results: LOTS of BODY BAGS.
It’s nothing but a LIE.
Amazing how we didn’t have this problem with PRESIDENT TRUMP.
DICTATOR Beijing biden has turned our military into SNOW FLAKES. No wonder NOBODY wants to enlist today. NO LEADERSHIP.

1 year ago

I don’t have all the answers but I feel that proper advertising of the services can motive enlistments.I was Airborne and proud of “Death from Above”. The men I served with were tough and taught so. We seemed be where ever the action was and training ,proper training brought a lot of us home. I’m told that the Army No gives recruits “Stress Cards”.You can’t give the enemy a card or anything else but lock and load. We were taught country, honor,integrity which I still believe and taught our children. We need heroes ,examples to follow to make aAmerica great again. Old man now still Death from Above. Go Trump. “Trump Country”

1 year ago

The fact is, the military isn’t doing it’s part either. When’s the last time you saw a military solder of any service in uniform? The military has done a great job of hiding itself from the public. The TV adds have slowed to a trickle as have the displays and they can’t recruit at the schools anymore. Given a choice how many parents would push their sons toward the military. About as many that think being a nurse is a good career for them. If they can get past the stigma and look at the benefits – GI bill for schooling and housing, free medical care, a real retirement (that’s a lot better than most), tax free commissary and PX, and the list goes on. I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel Nurse Corp Officer with 28years – Masters in Nursing Science, Combat Medical Badge, Air Borne, Air Assault, Thailand, Honduras, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq. If you don’t want to sit behind a desk, join the Army. See the United States and the world – and live life to its fullest.

1 year ago

As a former Marine Recruiter in the Detroit metro area I agree with your article. I used to speak to parents/students regarding the problems schools had in educating them. Reading a book and then regurgitating the info is not learning, it’s indoctrination. Now we see that indoctrination has resulted in students being alienated from their parents and heritage, and being enslaved to the government and social constructs.

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