By Biodun Busari
The United States has bemoaned that fewer young Americans are qualified to serve, and even fewer are willing to be recruited into the country’s military.
According to the Defense Department’s top personnel and readiness leader, the reluctance is blamed on the American competitive job market.
Quoting a Pentagon data, it was revealed that only 9% of the youth show tendency to join the army.
ABC News disclosed these on Saturday as it quoted top military sources who testified on Capitol Hill in late April.
“The Department is in fierce competition for skilled, relevant and innovative talent. The labor market, exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic and the military-civilian divide creates a challenging recruiting environment,” Gilbert Cisneros told senators at an Armed Services subcommittee hearing.
“Many of the things that we used to offer, like the GI Bill, are offered by private industry today. So they’re no longer a benefit,” the former senior official said.
It was learnt that even the Marine Corps, which does not usually struggle to find recruits, is under pressure to meet its goals.
In the report, it was revealed that top reasons cited for not wanting to join are the possibility of injury or death, and fear of developing PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder) or other psychological problems.
But the pool of young people who meet the basic standards to enlist in the military is also deteriorating.
“We made mission last year; however, FY22 has proved to be arguably the most challenging year in recruiting history,” Marine Lt. Gen. David Ottingnon said in written testimony before joining Cisneros at the Senate hearing in April.
“In addition to COVID-19, the growing disconnect and declining favorable view between the U.S. population and traditional institutions, labor shortages, high inflation, and a population of youth who do not see the value of military service also continue to strain recruiting efforts and place the Marine Corps’ accession mission at risk,” he said.
Only 23% of Americans aged 17 to 24 are eligible to join without being granted a waiver. This is down from 29% in recent years, according to Pentagon data. Obesity and drug use are common disqualifying factors.
“They have to teach them how to run, and they’ve had issues with bone density to the point that, when they do run them, they’ve ended up breaking a leg or worse, a hip. I’ve even heard in some cases they’re putting them on diets of Ensure — you know, the stuff for old [people] like me — in order to build that bone density,” another top official said.
“To the average civilian who’s not knowledgeable about the situation, they think there are all kinds of kids around. Yeah, but you can’t bring them in the Army if they’re obese, if they’ve got a history of drug abuse, all these other things. So it’s a much smaller population,” the second former official said.
He also said in an attempt to expand its base of applicants, the Army advertised last week that it was “offering limited eligibility for applicants who do not have a GED or High School diploma to enlist in the Regular Army.”
The second former senior military official spoke on the importance of diplomas relating to recruitment into the military.
“If they had graduated from high school it meant that they had started something and had finished it. And they were far more likely to succeed in the Army because of that discipline,” Ottingnon said.
“The Army has currently paused its efforts to take some time to ensure that this option sets recruits up for success in their Army career,” one Army official with close knowledge of the decision said.
“I have a real concern of the viability of the all-volunteer force, I really do. I don’t see anything changing that’s going to right this ship right now. Albeit there are a lot of good people trying to do everything they can, there are a lot of issues out there that have to be fixed,” he further revealed.
The second former senior military official said the recruiting problem is a sign of wider societal problems.
“It’s a reflection on our country. It is our country, and those recruiters see those problems firsthand every day,” he said.