“Very pretty, Colonel, Very pretty, But, can they fight?”
— Donald Sutherland, impersonating a general in The Dirty Dozen, 1967
They sure aren’t, The Dirty Dozen. In fact, they’re more like, The Latte Dozen.
Make no mistake, the United States Army is in the midst of an identity crisis.
One of the difficulties that George Washington faced more than 240 years ago is still a challenge today: inspiring young people to aspire to a greater calling.
Bloomberg is out with a report chronicling the sad state of affairs the US military has found itself in these days.
In a bid to lure eligible recruits from what is Generation Z and stave off the Russian and Chinese hordes, they are launching a cartoon series dubbed “The Calling,” which will run on YouTube during May and June, ZeroHedge.com reported.
As Bloomberg noted, “The Army — the US military’s largest service — faces a complex set of problems: the eligible recruiting pool into all military services is small; and the newest generation of prospects, Gen Z, has had almost no knowledge of the military, which has largely fought wars abroad since 2001. The Gen Z cohort grew up with technology, the internet, and social media.”
It gets worse.
According to the report, almost 71% of those aged 17 to 24 — roughly 24 million out of 34 million people — are ineligible to join the military because of “obesity, lack of high school diploma, or a criminal record,” according to Pentagon data.
In order to lure the eligible Gen-Z’ers, the Army will be spending US$425 million on marketing, with the goal of recruiting 60,000 to 70,000 active-duty soldiers, along with 40,000-45,000 National Guardsmen, and 13,000 to 17,000 members of the reserve.
To do this, prospective recruits will be served content on YouTube via 15-second trailer.
If a person watches at least 10 seconds of the ad, they will see a two-to-three minute episode of the recruiting cartoon, followed by an invitation to hop over to the Army’s website.
“Gen Z flips through social media like it is an Olympic sport, and in order to get them to stop their thumbs for a few seconds, you’ve got to surprise them,” said Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, the Army’s chief of enterprise marketing.
“The Calling has got a much more different look and feel than anything else than not only the Army has done — but nobody in the military has done something like this.”
Members of Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than any previous generation, and they are on track to be the most well-educated generation yet.
They are also digital natives who have little or no memory of the world as it existed before smartphones.
Pew Research Center surveys conducted in the fall of 2018 (more than a year before the coronavirus outbreak) among Americans ages 13 and older found that, similar to Millennials, Gen Zers are progressive and pro-government, most see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations.
“Research tells us that young people today see the Army as a ‘distant star’ – a place requiring a nearly superhuman level of discipline with little relevance to their daily lives,” said Maj. Gen. Alex Fink, Chief of Army Enterprise Marketing.
“Similarly, youth don’t necessarily connect with those who serve or see common ground in terms of interests, abilities, and goals. ‘The Calling’ shatters these misperceptions by showing that Soldiers are all of us: real people with hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations, families, friends, and obstacles to overcome.”
The Army conducted a worldwide search across the forces for soldier stories to support the campaign, receiving nearly one hundred inspiring entries.
After settling on a shortlist of potential candidates, stories were tested to assess their resonance with today’s youth.
The final “cast” provides a rich tapestry of stories that represent the diverse upbringings and life experiences that make up today’s Army.
Featured soldiers include:
- Cpl. Emma Malonelord, U.S. Army (“Emma”): Emma seemed to have it all. A self-proclaimed “spoiled kid” – growing up with a supportive family, good education, and plenty of extracurriculars — but she found herself seeking her purpose in life. While studying at the University of California, Davis, she admired the humanitarian efforts of some of her sorority sisters and began to feel a pull to be part of something bigger.
- 1st Lt. David Toguchi, U.S. Army (“David”): David never gave himself permission to dream about becoming a pilot. As a young boy in Hawaii, he spent hours watching helicopters take off from a nearby Army base. It wasn’t until his older brother, who was serving in the Army at the time, tirelessly encouraged him to chase his passion that David began to turn his lifelong dream into a reality.
- 1st Lt. RudSheld Plaisir, U.S. Army (“Rickie”): Rickie was a child of two worlds. Growing up in a religious family in Haiti, he experienced an incredible amount of culture shock when his family immigrated to Tampa, when he was seven years old. Rickie joined his high school JROTC program, where he fell in love with the idea of military service.
- 1st Lt. Janeen Phelps, U.S. Army Reserve (“Janeen”): Janeen had friends join the Army out of high school and felt equally drawn to its opportunities. A natural born singer, Janeen began picking up singing gigs on the Vegas Strip to cover college expenses, which led to a successful career performing on cruise ships. Her experiences traveling the high seas reignited Janeen’s longing to serve and be a part of the solution.
- Spc. Jennifer Liriano, U.S. Army Reserve (“Jennifer”): Jennifer had to grow up fast. Born to first-generation immigrants from the Dominican Republic who worked long hours to make ends meet, she spent her childhood caring for her family. At 23, she met an Army recruiter who introduced her to the benefits of enlisting, including an accelerated path to a nursing license and scholarship support. Today, she is a platoon sergeant with the U.S. Army Reserve 865th Combat Support Hospital.
The Army chose anime because the medium makes it possible to intertwine many moments in a soldier’s life into one product, Army officials said.
“It’s a distinct departure from our previous Army campaigns, both in its arresting kind of visual, this anime approach but also an intimate portrayal of those who serve,” Brig. Gen. Patrick Michaelis, deputy commander of US Army Recruiting Command, or USAREC, told reporters.
Recruiters have refined the process of responding to recruiting leads to “make sure that within 72 hours, we are hitting those contacts that come into the system,” Michaelis said.
“We find that if you wait a certain amount of time, if you spend too much time not contacting those folks, there is a point where interest starts to wane … This was a tough lesson learned from last year.”
The military is changing too.
Nobody wants to show up for military service and have the crap beat out of them.
Fort Benning’s 22-week infantry one-station unit training has replaced the infamous shark attack welcome — the full-on attack from a relentless, and seemingly heartless, drill instructor — with “The First 100 Yards,” a new introductory training event being instituted at Basic Combat Training sites across the Army.
The new training exercise is designed to put new trainees through a series of physically and mentally challenging events that will build an initial foundation of “belief in one’s self, belief in your teammates, and a belief in the leaders with whom they serve.”
Recruits coming in during the pandemic were already facing a highly stressful environment, so leaders at all the basic training bases agreed changes were necessary.
Sources: PewResearch.org, AUSA.org, Bloomberg, ZeroHedge, PRNewswire, Military.com