Today’s Teenagers, The Military Recruiting Crisis And The Obvious Solution

Dan Bullock was 15 years old when he gave his life in Vietnam. As the youngest servicemember to die in the conflict he served in the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment. He enlisted at fourteen years old and made it through boot camp all the way to Southeast Asia from Brooklyn, New York. After Dan there were 5 soldiers that were 16 years old killed in action in Vietnam. None of these teenagers were drafted and dragged off to war, they all signed up. They sure don’t make’em like they used to…

I can barely imagine the teenagers of today fighting in foreign wars. Today’s military is undergoing a serious recruiting crisis, young people aren’t signing up. Every generation is shaped by their environment and iGen’s biggest influence isn’t their parents, education, or work…it’s social media. The technology world prioritizes individualism over community and comfort over challenges. Today’s kids are growing up unprepared for adulthood, let alone the military. The country has never struggled this much to attract willing and qualified recruits. We’re coming out of the worst year in the history of the all-volunteer force in 2022 and there’s no improvement in sight.

An 18 year old today is less likely to have tried alcohol, had sex, or gotten their driver’s license as 20 years ago….And yet they’re also more likely to suffer from depression and mental health disorders. Maybe they need some sex, drugs, and rock and roll- or to join the military.  

The upper levels of the military have a solution, and it’s a dumb one. Their solution is to drop standards, accepting lower test scores, overweight people, and admit below average recruits. The commonsense solution is simple, make military life better. Pay the military more, increase benefits, and take better care of the people who put their lives on the line. Do more for Veterans when they transition out of the military. When people see Veterans thrive post-service, that’ll make service more desirable.

Seeking recruits in the aftermath of the pullout from Afghanistan, a mental health epidemic, and vaccine mandates presents real problems. But the biggest problem of all, is Veterans are telling their children not to join. The Armed Forces is a family business, with 80% of people serving having a close family member in the military. When the children of Veterans are avoiding the military, the nations in trouble. Problems are often complex, and solutions are simple- improve military life and the lives of American Veterans.

Convincing an entitled generation the benefits of service to others isn’t an easy task. But maybe that’s exactly what modern teenagers need, a purpose beyond their screens. A real-world challenge to undertake and an adventure outside their comfort zone.

3 Military Fixes

  • Prioritize Successful Post-Military Lives for America’s Veteran Population
  • Get RID of The Complete Lack Of Accountability At The Higher Ranks
  • Care More About The Well-Being Of Junior Ranks Than The Opinions Of Politicians

The country isn’t blind, they see the Afghanistan debacle, Veteran suicide numbers, and discontentment in the military community. Getting people to join means witnessing Veterans living successful lives, starting businesses, winning political offices, and being a powerful cultural force. There are people who still view the military as an option of last resort for American youth, the Vietnam mentality of “go to war or go to jail” has stuck around. There are people who look down on Veterans for serving, but there are also Veterans that look down on civilians for not.

When I was recruiting for the Army I had a student stand up in a college auditorium and say “no offense, I’m too smart for the military.” Responding back to her, “no offense, you’re too fat for the military” was worth the ass chewing I took from my commander and evil looks I got from 90% of the room. Because the military should set the standard for the country, not have the country set the standard for the military.

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