Last week Americans rendered thanks for yet another season of harvest and plenty. With little more than turkey, dressing, and pie weighing on our thoughts, many of us settled in to watch the biggest rivalries in college football face off in stadiums across the country.
As Alabama snatched victory from Auburn in the Iron Bowl, Ohio State and Michigan duked it out, and Georgia faced down Georgia Tech, our nation’s army did an about-face on its recruiting strategy.
Throughout the games, the Army presented its new strategy to the American people.
The Army’s latest Be All You Can Be 30-second ad is a complete reversal of its marketing strategy in 2021-2022. The spot opens with thundering music and a lone Chinook helicopter flying over mist-covered mountains. “Stand up!” are the first and only spoken words, and we watch a young man make his first parachute jump over the roar of the CH-47’s blades.
When he lands safely amid his billowing parachute, his smile is full of genuine pride.
It’s an iconic ad, moving and visceral. It may well inspire many of the nation’s young men who watch gridiron rivalries to join up. (RELATED: MORGAN MURPHY: Don’t Ask Israel To Pull Its Punches)
Those men are sorely needed. So needed, in fact, that what is notable about the commercial is that the main subject is a white male. The helicopter is full of young white men. There isn’t a woman in sight. Surely such a commercial wouldn’t have gotten past the diversity mandarins in the Pentagon if Uncle Joe’s recruiting situation weren’t in shambles.
Biden’s Department of Defense is failing on the most fundamental level—not enough young Americans are signing up to join the Army, Air Force, or Navy. In 2022, the Army missed its recruiting goal by 15,000 people—the equivalent of an entire division. In fiscal year 2023, which ended last month, the Army failed to reach its goal again, with 10,000 missing recruits. That’s a total readiness shortfall of 25,000 recruits for one service branch alone.
Fat camp in fatigues: that gap would have been 35,000 had the Army not relaxed entrance requirements by creating the “Future Soldier Preparatory Course.” Located in Fort Jackson, South Carolina and Fort Moore, Georgia, the course allowed the Army to place 10,000+ young adults on its rolls who didn’t meet the service’s minimum physical and academic standards. The Navy is following suit with its own “Future Sailor Preparatory Course.”
And for soldiers and sailors already serving in the military, Biden’s services are reducing standards and boosting pay and bonuses. The Navy has replaced the standard sit up with a much easier plank and has cut the number of physical readiness tests to just one a year. America’s sea service is also offering staggering bonuses of up to $48,000 for select reserve officers to just remain in a drilling status. Military bearing? The new Navy is letting sailors get unlimited tattoos on their arms, neck, legs, and behind the ears. Anything that might irritate a new recruit is being relaxed, even the uniforms. The famous thirteen buttons of a sailor’s bell-bottomed trousers have now been replaced by a zipper, presumably to save a poor millennial from finger fatigue.
Army leaders look calm testifying before Congress about their recruiting collapse, but there’s a growing panic among Pentagon politicals. Never before in the history of America’s all-volunteer force has the Army missed its yearly recruiting goals. The Army made its number during the 1970s, when morale was sapped by Vietnam. It made in the ’80s during a booming economy and when the Army stood at 780,000 soldiers, or almost twice its current size. Even amidst COVID and the morass of 2020, the Army met its recruiting goals.
Officials are quick to blame these shortfalls on obesity, poor schools, and the economy. They fail to mention that Biden’s first acts as commander-in-chief was to invite trans individuals to join up and to force the entire military to spend 8 million man hours scouring the ranks for “extremism.” (RELATED: ASHLEY HAYEK: America’s Military Deserves Better Than Biden)
If that didn’t to turn off America’s young warriors, the Army’s campaign “The Calling” surely did. Rolled out in May 2021, the animated spots looked like a Disney cartoon and primarily showcased the Army’s diversity. “Emma,” featured a young soldier talking about her upbringing with two moms. In fact, each soldier featured in “The Calling” focused on self, rather than service. What the spots didn’t feature were white men, even though males account for 84 percent of the Army and 54 percent of troops are white. Unsurprisingly, the ads were such a disaster that the Army was forced to turn off comments online.
Now, after two years of plummeting recruiting and a true readiness emergency, the Army has not only taken to showing white male warriors, but it’s even asking back soldiers kicked out for not taking the COVID vaccine.
You can bet your M4 this about-face didn’t come lightly.
Morgan Murphy is a former national security advisor and Pentagon press secretary.
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