AP NEWS

Army rethinking recruitment efforts for younger generation

January 3, 2019
Army soldiers

For the first time since 2005, recruiting numbers have fallen short and the U.S. Army’s top brass are trying to figure out new ways to get young people to join its ranks.

Recruiters say the patriotism sparked by the Sept. 11 terror attacks has largely dissipated because many 18-year-olds have little knowledge of the incident.

Tiffany Conley says the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., in 2001 are the reasons why she enlisted in the Army.

“After 9/11, terrorism was up (and) everybody was scared,” she said. “I just wanted to do something. You can’t just sit home.”

Conley wasn’t alone.

After those attacks that leveled the World Trade Center Towers and destroyed part of the Pentagon, military recruiters had no problem getting new people to sign up.

Conley’s son was born on Sept. 12, 2000, and was 1 year old when the attack happened. Now, he has no real memory of that Sept. 11 attack.

Cordae Grier is among a generation of teenagers who are not patriotically motivated to join the military.

“I learned about it in school, but other than that, that’s all I know,” he said.

For the first time since 2005, the Army fell short of its recruiting goal by 6,500 soldiers.

Another hurdle for recruiters is the booming economy and low unemployment rate.

But recruiters say they’re hopeful that military benefit packages and skills the enlistees can acquire while serving that can then be used in the civilian world will help lure more young people into the ranks

Recruiters say all this generation knows are wars and deployments.

“They saw their parents get ready for war (and) they went through life without mom or dad for a period of time and that affects everyone in their own way,” said Army Sgt. Paul Ernandes, a recruiter.

Grier is proud of his mother’s service so he’s decided to join the Army.

“My mom served in the Army and my dad is retired now,” he said. “It’s a decision I made on my own.”

Recruiters know they have to not only change the message but also how it’s delivered if they want to bring more young people into the military’s ranks.

“Things like social media has made it even easier to get our message out,” Ernandes said. “People who thought that the military was never going to be an option are now able to access this information.”

That means while recruitment numbers may be down nationwide, there’s no panic among recruiters who feel the changes they’re making will help fill the ranks,