An expert on military personnel policy says that middle class parents, including those who are newly middle class, often encourage their kids to go to college before selecting a career, which hurts recruiting for enlisted personnel. “Changing the mind of parents is the really tough part, particularly if these are parents who worked really hard for their children to go to college,” said Kate Kuzminski from the Center for a New American Security. She noted that recruiting ads increasingly target the parents of potential recruits. “That’s where they’re trying to win the hearts and minds.”
Long-term challenges like declining eligibility and trust in the military are only part of the issue, according to defense and U.S. military officials. More recent challenges like a national labor shortage, inflation and the effects of Covid have also affected recruitment. Two years of Covid has led to canceled air shows, a drastic decrease in in-person recruitment efforts, and more people now wanting to work from home.
Kuzminski agrees that Covid hurt recruiting, but adds that another challenge has been political pressure in some school districts not to let recruiters on campuses. Face-to-face meetings can be a powerful incentive to enlist.
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