I spent two tours of duty in Vietnam in the Marine Corps in the mid-60s and have heard from those who served after me how less rigorous the training is now. I often catch myself worried about the state of this nation if we must go to war again. For those who study history and realize it is imperative to be on the alert and ready for those nations that would most certainly hit us as the Japanese did in December of 1941, when they could see that we were not prepared to do battle with them for a time, until our very existence was threatened.
A longtime friend of mine, who knows me well, sent me some information of late that shows that we have a deficit of thousands of entry-level troops that is on pace to be worse than any since after the Vietnam War. The Pentagon report says in no uncertain terms the shortfall in enlistments this year threatens to throw a wrench into the military’s machinery, leaving critical jobs unfilled and some platoons with too few people to function.
The New York Times report pointed to COVID-19 as part of the problem. The article also noted that the “current white-hot labor market, with many more jobs available than people to fill them, was also a factor, as rising civilian wages and benefits make military service less enticing.” But even more disconcerting was the news that less than one-quarter of young American adults are physically fit to enlist and are free of a criminal record, a proportion that has shrunk steadily in recent years. It clearly states that shifting attitudes toward military service mean that now only one in ten young people say they would even consider military service.
This despite the military pushing enlistment bonuses as high as $50,000 and offering “quick ship” cash of up to $35,000 for certain recruits who can leave for basic training in 30 days. To broaden the recruiting pool, the service branches have loosened their restrictions for issues like neck tattoos.
In June, the situation became so serious that the Army briefly dropped its requirement for a high school diploma, before deciding that was a bad move and rescinded the change. The Army, the largest of the armed forces, has been hit hardest by the recruiting shortfall. As of June, it had recruited only about 40% of the roughly 57,000 new soldiers it wants to put in boots by September 30, the end of the fiscal year. Adding to the recruiting issues are strange signals from the Pentagon with political correctness taking priority over military readiness. In a war our enemies will not care that we celebrated Pride Month with rainbow striped bullets. Political correctness, vaccine mandates, and risk of nuclear war also factor in with potential recruits.
From what the article indicated neither the Navy nor the Marine Corps were having any better luck recruiting but did not release recruiting figures. Instead, both acknowledged it will be hard for them to meet quotas this year. Even the Air Force, which has rarely had trouble attracting talent in the past, was said to be about 4,000 recruits short of the level it typically reaches by midsummer.
There are long-terms concerns about the shrinking pool of young Americans who are both able and willing to serve. In recent years, it has been discovered that seventy-six percent of adults ages 17-24 are either too obese to qualify, have other medical issues, or criminal histories that would make them ineligible to serve without a waiver.
What the military sees with regard to a “willingness to serve” is disconcerting and has fallen steadily for several years. It stood at thirteen percent before the pandemic but is now at nine percent.
This is not the first time in 49 years since the United States ended the draft, that recruitment has fallen short, the article read. Recruiting for the military is always tough when jobs are plentiful as they are presently.
Let’s just hope that some rogue nation (pick one – North Korea, Iran, Russia, or China) does not decide to land the first punch as did the Japanese some 81 years ago. A sneak attack like the one that we experienced then would reveal our lack of preparedness for war. Should that happen, this nation would seemingly cease to exist almost overnight based on these alarming statistics in this report.
The solutions to these problems are more than just about the military. Our children must be physically fit, not just for military service but to lead healthier, more productive lives. Our schools need to be more demanding of students and expect better test scores and not do “social promotions.” And last, fathers need to be more invested in the development of their children and teach responsibility for their actions.
If we cannot make some fundamental changes in our education and family structure, then our schools will need to focus on Chinese as a second language for most students. Our children are our best hope for continued freedom, but only if they understand the value and price of that freedom.