Who Signs Up to Fight? Makeup of U.S. Recruits Shows Glaring Disparity
But, it's not quite the disparity you may think
More and more, new recruits are the children of old recruits. In 2019, 79 percent of Army recruits reported having a family member who served. For nearly 30 percent, it was a parent — a striking point in a nation where less than 1 percent of the population serves in the military.
For years, military leaders have been sounding the alarm over the growing gulf between communities that serve and those that do not, warning that relying on a small number of counties that reliably produce soldiers is unsustainable, particularly now amid escalating tensions with Iran.
“A widening military-civilian divide increasingly impacts our ability to effectively recruit and sustain the force,” Anthony M. Kurta, acting under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service last year. “This disconnect is characterized by misperceptions, a lack of knowledge and an inability to identify with those who serve. It threatens our ability to recruit the number of quality youth with the needed skill sets to maintain our advantage.”
To be sure, the idea of joining the military has lost much of its luster in nearly two decades of grinding war. The patriotic rush to enlist after the terrorist attacks of 2001 has faded. For a generation, enlisting has produced reliable hardship for troops and families, but nothing that resembles victory. But the military families who have borne nearly all of the burden, and are the most cleareyed about the risks of war, are still the Americans who are most likely to encourage their sons and daughters to join.
"The rhetoric about a bad economy driving poor people to enlist kind of misses the point; it's the middle of the income spectrum that has a disproportionate share of military service. My worry is less about the poor being driven en masse to recruiters and more about the appearance of a hereditary military caste." (thanks to Recursion at another site)
I'm all for mandatory two year service in the military or three years in some other civilian service with a college education as a benefit. The only deferment would be for education with service to follow.