Research reveals youth disconnected with military

By Daniel MaltaJanuary 24, 2019

FORT SILL, Okla., Jan. 24, 2019 -- The Army missed its recruiting goal for fiscal 2018 by approximately 6,500 recruits and as stated in Part I of this series, leaders at every level are looking for solutions.

With the entire Army becoming involved in the issue, every Soldier has the opportunity to make a meaningful impact to recruiting in 2019. While this opportunity exists, it's important to understand the complexities of the issue and the methods we all use to help.

One major societal trend that has impacted recruiting is the fact that 50 percent of youth admit to knowing little to nothing about the military, according to U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Another challenge the command has highlighted is a disconnect between the military and society. Joint Advertising Market Research & Studies (JAMRS) conducted by the Department of Defense states youth perception of the military is declining due to a shrinking military footprint, years of prolonged overseas conflict, globalization, dwindling family ties, lack of knowledge, and a perception that service members aren't "people like them."

Reviewing these findings, it's reasonable to believe that information-sharing alone can help curb the bulk of these problems. With the average Soldier having so much content to share, from how the military paid for their degrees to how they've traveled the world, what exactly should Soldiers be sharing?

In the previous article, we explained that it's necessary to step back from which elements of the Army appeal to you, instead highlighting those topics that meet the needs, wants, and desires of this youngest generation joining (post-millennials).

Looking at a Future Plans and Associations study conducted by JAMRS, there were four important topics, which youths ages 16-21 didn't perceive as something that the Army could offer. Those four things were an environment free from danger, a job that makes them happy, contact with family/friends, and an attractive lifestyle.

Attending a recent high school visit on Fort Sill and speaking with students, these topics all reverberated when students responded to what they wanted out of a career.

U.S. Grant student Annalise Saunders wants to work with plants one day because she finds them peaceful. She also stated that it was important for her career to allow her time with family, which she prioritized over any potential job. Another group of boys stated in unison their ultimate goal was "to be happy."

One of those boys, Juan Jimenez, U.S. Grant student, stated that "everyone here (the Soldiers) seems pretty cool with each other. They're not blood, but they look close like that. That's happiness. Being together and having someone that I know has my back regardless of where I came from, race, religion, sex, or creed, I feel like that's pretty good." When asked what was keeping him away, he stated "dying. I have a family I'd like to come home to every now and then."

These anecdotes from local high schoolers, further outline the relevancy of topics like family, friends, personal happiness, safety, and lifestyle.

Therefore, I believe the best thing we can all do is tell our Army stories in a way that highlights camaraderie, esprit de corps, brotherhood/sisterhood, and how amazing military life truly is.

Yes, we've all had crappy moments and hardships in the military, but as a veteran, I also know that some of the best years of my life were spent "embracing the suck" with my fellow Marines. Focus on those stories, share your accomplishments and talk about how your unique lifestyle makes you happy.