Fear Of Death, PTSD Are Army Recruiters' Biggest Hurdles: Govt Survey
The U.S. Army is coming off its worst recruiting performance in decades, and says young Americans' fear of death and mental illness are the biggest reasons they won't sign up.
That conclusion comes from surveys of 16- to 28-year-olds conducted last spring and summer, officials say. The Army shared general findings with the Associated Press, but not the full details of the survey results, methodology or questions posed.
The Army had ambitions to recruit 60,000 soldiers in 2022, but fell a whopping 25% short of the objective. Trying to put a dent in its growing deficit -- and ignoring its 2022 results -- the service implausibly aspires to recruit 65,000 in 2023.
"I would say it is a stretch goal," Army Secretary Christine Wormuth tells Associated Press, apparently with a straight face. Wormuth never served in the military but has held a variety of Defense Department posts, along with a revolving-door swing at the RAND Corporation.
According to the Army's surveys, the top four reasons young people reject the idea of Army service:
Fear of death
Worries about falling victim to post-traumatic stress disorder
Leaving friends and family
The feeling that Army service would amount to "putting my life on hold"
After those reasons, there was a steep drop-off. Other deterrents included concerns about discrimination against women and minorities, a general distrust of the military, misgivings about living conditions on bases, being stuck in an unwanted job, the now-rescinded Covid vaccine mandate and feelings that Army is going "woke."
Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, who holds the corporate-sounding title of "Chief of Army Enterprise Marketing," emphasizes to AP that Army "wokeness" -- though frequently invoked by GOP legislators -- was cited by only about 5% of young people surveyed.
Young people "just don’t see the Army as something that’s relevant,” says Fink. "They see us as revered, but not relevant in their lives.”
To fill its emptying ranks, the Army's rolling out new programs and incentives. Increasingly under pressure to lower the standards for who's deemed service-worthy, one program cultivates the bottom of the barrel by helping academic- and fitness-impaired recruits overcome their weaknesses, via up to 90 days of extra academic or fitness training.
The Army is also going to throw extra financial incentives at recruiters, with bonuses of up to $4,500 a quarter for beating their individual goals. One thing that's sure to incentivize: recruiters plumbing new depths of unethical behavior -- they already carry a well-earned reputation for dishonesty.
One pilot program is particularly cringeworthy: Privates and privates first class can actually score a promotion in rank for convincing someone to enlist. (Limit: One promotion per soldier.)
Judging from the article, AP and senior military officials spent little or no time discussing how the Army will try to overcome the top two turn-offs: death and PTSD.
If researchers dove deeper into these concerns, they'd probably find many young people particularly dread the idea of being maimed, killed or mentally ravaged in a war that has no moral or national-interest justification...which is pretty much the only kind of war the Pentagon wages anymore.