(WATCH) Military Recruits

As the war in the Mideast continues, we begin with its impact on the homeland here in America. The U.S. is sending new money and military aid to Israel to shore up operations after the surprise attack by the Islamic extremist terrorist group Hamas three weeks ago. The U.S. has already given tens of billions to Ukraine after Russia’s invasion. But we’re facing a crisis when it comes to keeping our own military strong. For decades, our armed forces have successfully operated as an all-volunteer element consistently meeting recruiting goals — until now. This has been the toughest recruitment year for the military since the draft ended 50 years ago. Why and what the Pentagon is doing to solve it is our cover story.

The following is a transcript of a report from “Full Measure with Sharyl Attkisson.” Watch the video by clicking the link at the end of the page.

Michael Lenard / Army Recruiter: There’s so many different jobs, so many things that you can do in the Army. And so, we’re here to try to shed that light and let people know that you can be all you can be. There’s a place for you here in the Army.

America’s current all-volunteer military force was built starting at the end of the Vietnam War in 1973. Twenty-five years of the draft — forced military service for selected men— was brought to a halt. Attracting a strong force of volunteers has worked out pretty well over the 50 years. The military has always met its recruiting goals. That is, until last year.

In 2022, the Army fell short 15,000 recruits, about 25% of its goal of 60,000. And for 2023, three of five military branches are on track to miss their recruiting numbers.

We headed to America’s military headquarters, the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia, to hear from Brigadier General Pat Ryder.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder: Well, first of all, we are facing some significant recruiting challenges. It’s obviously a very competitive environment right now in terms of recruiting talent throughout America, and the military is not immune from that. But we are actively employing a variety of methods to try to recruit the best that America has to offer to fill our ranks.

If recruiting has never been tougher, there have probably never been more reasons why.

Student: Just staying away from family, probably. Like, not being able to stay with family.

Not wanting to leave family and friends is a top reason why young people say they might avoid a military career, according to an Army survey. Also high on the list: worries about post traumatic stress disorder, and — most of all— fear of death.

Lenard: So, the main question is like, “I don’t want to go to combat.” And my first thing to them is say, “Hey, you don’t have to go to combat. Every job is not a combat job.”

As far as videos used to make a military career seem appealing, this one has more than 8 million views. Midshipmen at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland starred in “Naptown Funk,” a 2015 spoof of the hit song “Uptown Funk.”

Maverick, the 2022 sequel to “Top Gun” did its share of inspiring would-be Air Force recruits with macho man excitement.

But the military is also trying a controversial, new approach. The Navy using an active duty drag queen — a male entertainer impersonating an exaggerated version of a woman — to serve as a digital recruiting “ambassador.”

General Ryder says the military is trying out a lot of other strategies too.

Ryder: So, for example, the Army just rolled out a new updated “Be All You Can Be” campaign to really talk to potential recruits, to young Americans, and to their families, and to influencers, about the fact that the Army can afford opportunities for you to achieve your full potential. The Air Force, similarly, has updated its campaign to highlight the opportunities that exist. And all the services are really doing that. So, so it’s a full court press across a variety of means and methods to really re-introduce America to its military.

When it comes to military hesitancy, according to the Army survey, about 10% of young people say they don’t trust military leadership, based on the way recent missions have been handled.

One widely-criticized event was the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in summer of 2021. Thirteen U.S. troops and 170 Afghan civilians were murdered. A botched U.S. drone strike killed 10 innocent Afghans, including seven children. Hundreds of Americans were stranded, and the country was handed back over to the Taliban, the same Islamic extremist terrorist regime the U.S. had fought for two decades.

Sharyl: Do you think the Afghanistan withdrawal that was so disastrous and made it kind of look as though it was for naught, you know, what we had done all those years — do you think that played a factor?

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio: It definitely did play a big factor.

Congressman Warren Davidson is a former Army Ranger.

Davidson: The Biden administration did it the exact wrong way. They took the military out, they abandoned the embassy. And then they were counting on the Taliban to help get the rest of the civilians out. Horrible plan. It’s amazing it went as well as it did. And it didn’t go well at all. So it didn’t inspire confidence in moms and dads to say, “Hey, I think my kids could be part of that.”

Davidson graduated from West Point and now serves on the military academy’s advisory board.

Davidson: We’ve had a decrease in applicants at West Point, and then in the district we work with people to enlist.

Senator Joni Ernst, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Iowa National Guard, says she has little doubt that young people today are put off by TV commercials showing injured vets seemingly abandoned by government and getting help from citizen donors.

Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa: But there are many other reasons that we can’t recruit. A lot of our young people aren’t qualified for military service. We are at an all-time low of people that will actually meet the standard. Things such as physical health, mental health, even police records. And those between the ages of 18 and 24 — out of all those young people — only 23% are eligible to serve. And it’s an even slimmer population within that 23% that actually do want to serve.

Another controversy: at least 8,000 enlisted service members were booted for not getting the Covid vaccine.

Sharyl: The vaccine mandates got a lot of publicity in the press. What is the impact of that publicity do you think?

Ryder: As a member of the military for 30 years, all of us have had to take and continue to take multiple vaccines. So, when we applied the vaccine mandate, that was a lawful order. And while that has been rescinded, we continue to encourage our members to become vaccinated. Because again, I need to be able to count on you to go where I need you, when I need you to get there.

But one of the most public debates involves “wokeness,” the notion that activists are using the military to advance controversial social causes rather than protect and defend the nation. Last March, Republican Matt Gaetz questioned Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley about military facilities hosting drag shows.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla. (Congressional hearing, March 29): How much taxpayer money should go to fund drag queen story hours on military bases?

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin: You know, drag queen story hours is not something that the department funds.

General Mark Milley: I’d like to take a look at those because I don’t agree with those. I think those things shouldn’t be happening.

Not long after that testimony, the Pentagon ordered Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to cancel a drag show scheduled to perform at the Officers’ Club, as it had the past two years.

Sharyl: What do you think is the impact of the notion that the military is changing into a different kind of body that some people wouldn’t want to be part of because of the — what they call “wokeness?”

Ryder: Yeah. Well I’ve been a part of this organization for 30 years. I’ve seen all echelons, all aspects. And I can tell you one of the things about the United States military, without a doubt: it is the most combat-credible, experienced fighting force that the world has ever seen.

Just 5% of young people surveyed mentioned “wokeness” as a reason they wouldn’t join the military, according to the Army. The Virginia high school students we spoke to said they had no objection to using a drag queen to recruit soldiers.

Student: I don’t think my mindset should change just because he was like trying to recruit me.

Student: It’s just about equal opportunity at this point. Yeah.

Student: It’s good, you know, everybody has their own opinions, you know, but I think everybody is equal in my eyes.

Perhaps the most important question at issue is how the military’s recruiting challenges might ultimately impact all of us.

Sharyl: Is there concern that this could actually though have an impact if we can’t find qualified candidates, and we’re looking five, ten years down the road?

Ernst: I do have a concern that this will impact readiness.

Sharyl: If we are far short in some areas of recruiting goals, what does that mean in terms of our safety and military readiness? Should be people be worried?

Ryder: Yeah, so first of all, what’s interesting is that while we do have some recruiting challenges, our retention right now in the U.S. military is at an all-time high. So that’s good news. And so, in terms of our ability to protect the nation, we are very confident that we will continue to be able to do what we need to do to defend our nation, to protect our interest, and to be ready to go to war if we’re called to do that. If there’s one thing that we’re good at in the U.S. military, it’s solving problems. And we’re confident that we’re doing the right things, that the military services are doing the right things to do that — to get the word out and encourage people to be a part of this. It won’t happen overnight, but we’re confident that we’ll see that trend reverse.

Sharyl (on-camera): At last check, the Army, Navy, and Air Force were about 24,000 below recruiting goals, with the Marines and Space Force on track or slightly ahead.

Watch cover story here.

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9 thoughts on “(WATCH) Military Recruits”

  1. It;s too late, once the President used the threat of a dishonorable discharge for anyone who refused to take the experimental COVID vaccine. Your just a Guinea pig with no rights.

  2. “”The The World Economic Forum published a video called “8 predictions for the world in 2030”. The first statement begins “You’ll own nothing. And you’ll be happy”. This statement about being deprived of property rights has gotten a lot of attention, but we should not fail to consider the second statement: “The U.S. won’t be the worlds’ leading superpower. A handful of countries will dominate”. The W.E.F. is a forum where “CEOs, heads of state, ministers and policy-makers, experts and academics, international organizations, youth, technology innovators and representatives of civil society” meet to discuss and to plan the worlds’ collective future. Those who purchase membership easily agree, so much so that we may assume that they purchase seats at this table, in order to gain advance knowledge of which way the wind will blow, and to be in positions to profit from the trends that are being imposed.”” https://markgresham.substack.com/p/creative-destruction

  3. We don’t have a recruitment problem . . . . all these flash mobs breaking into stores.
    Just round them up and put them on planes to the middle east and they can go shoot and kill anyone they want! They’re so brave, right?

    1. Agree. During the Carter administration being miltary was looked down on by the nation. Remember Dogs and Sailors keep off the grass signs. Reagan made it okay to be in the military again and those of us serving during that time felt the nation cared about the military. For the decades since I would advise young people to join the military before going to college; they would get job experience, self confidence and some tuition assitance. Even some free college courses.’
      No longer can I in good conscience make that same recommendation. Not with the push for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion being promoted at the highest level in all branches.
      This will not bode well for the USA as it pushes US down the road to self destruction.

    2. I won’t allow my son to be in the military fighting for the current people in power if there is a draft. I will take him out of the country first.

  4. Remember the A-Bomb veterans. They put the soldiers up front in trenches during the A-bomb tests. Many died of cancer afterwards.

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