Friday, December 8, 2017

Hiring America's soldiers

The veterans' publication Task and Purpose has the story:
The Recruiters: Searching For The Next Generation Of Warfighters In A Divided America  By ADAM LINEHAN 

"Since the draft was ended in 1973, recruiting has become one of the most important jobs in the military. For the Army, it’s imperative. While the Marine Corps prides itself on being lean, mean, and agile, and the Navy and Air Force increasingly rely on unmanned vehicles and long-range munitions, the Army’s greatest contribution to the battlefield is, and always has been, people. Roughly 70% of the nearly 7,000 U.S. troops killed so far in Iraq and Afghanistan were Army soldiers. Most were recruited through centers like the one in East Orange.

"Headquartered in Fort Knox, Kentucky, U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or USAREC, manages the recruiting mission for the service’s active-duty and reserve components. It is a massive, ever-evolving operation involving approximately 12,500 military and civilian personnel spread across 1,400 recruiting centers in the United States and abroad, including in Europe and Guam. Roughly $4.6 billion of the Army’s $33.8 billion budget for fiscal year 2017 was allotted for recruiting and training new soldiers; $424 million of that was spent on bonuses alone. The Army also poured more than $289 million into television, radio, digital media, direct mail, and sports-related advertising campaigns. A lot of blood, sweat, and tears goes into keeping the ranks filled with qualified volunteers. The recruiting machine never stops.

"The biggest factor in recruiting success is the health of the economy. Typically, when the unemployment rate goes up, so does the number of Americans wanting to join the military. Nonetheless, the more economically stressed, socioeconomic classes tend to be underrepresented in the armed forces. Although people in low-income neighborhoods are generally more inclined than their wealthier compatriots to enlist, fewer and fewer have the qualifications to serve. Rising standards are part of the reason. But so are a host of societal problems that tend to hit disenfranchised populations especially hard, such as increasing obesity rates and a public education system that disadvantages low-income zip codes.

"Currently, only about 29% of Americans between the ages of 17–24 are eligible to serve. Disqualifiers include lack of a high-school diploma or GED; tattoos on the hand, face, or neck; a wide range of physical and mental-health problems; a history of illegal drug use, and a criminal record.
"Bryant believes the Army could keep its ranks filled by focusing on a handful of states, most of them south of the Mason-Dixon line, while paying extra attention to communities within those states that have formed around military installations. Current trends support this view: Of the newest crop of Army recruits, half came from just seven states; 79% had relatives who served. The military has become increasingly — some would even add dangerously — insular since the advent of the all-volunteer force. As the journalist Thomas E. Ricks noted in a 1997 article for The Atlantic titled The Widening Gap Between Military and Society, this trend toward homogeneity was likely accelerated by the closing of dozens of bases and installations following the end of the Cold War, which significantly reduced the military’s footprint in the West and Northeast. 

“You can kind of draw a smiley face from North Carolina around the southern United States halfway up California, and that’s where the majority of [military] post, camps, and stations are,” Snow said. “Youth who have more interaction with those in uniform tend to [be more likely to enlist].” Could the Army shutter its recruiting centers in the Northeast and still meet its quotas? Snow suspects it could. “But then we’re getting away from the very principles that we pride ourselves on, and that’s that we are a microcosm of society,” he added.  

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