Taking Over the "Family Business"
Any military kid that has attended a DoDEA high school and a public high school can attest that it almost feels like there are more military recruiters at DoDEA high schools. They quietly set up their little tables and organized pamphlets, promising the sun, moon, and stars to interested military brats. After growing up in the military atmosphere, it’s easy to identify the propaganda and empty promises. Maybe the reason they are so persuasive is that they know who they’re talking to. It’s almost like these recruiters are getting special training to convince military brats to join the life they damned for most of the 18 years of their life.
If they are, it’s working.
The Pentagon completed a survey of recruits across all military branches that details some not-so-surprising numbers.
More than a quarter of new enlistment recruits that were surveyed at Military Enlistment Processing Stations (MEPS) reported that at least one of their parents had served the United States military. The majority of recruits had had at least one family member, specified by the report as a parent, sibling, grandparent, aunt/uncle, or cousin, in the military. The lowest of these numbers being Marine Corps recruits, where 77 percent reported a family member with prior service, and Air Force recruits showing the highest numbers at 86 percent.
Photo Credit: Department of Defense
While correlation does not equal causation, any military brat can tell you that the sponsor in their family has influenced their decision when considering military careers. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve pushed a child in one direction or another, it just means that the sponsor in a military child’s life has influenced their view on the military.
The military has consistently acknowledged the major influence that family members have on possible recruits, and how they can influence their joining - or avoiding - a military career path. Many military parents will encourage or discourage their children to join up based on their experiences with other service members, and their general military career. Another influence to consider is a parent's attitude towards government, the military life as a whole, and particular branches in the military. All of these ideas that a military kid grows up with can heavily influence their desire to join the U.S. Military, and if they do, what branch of service they choose to serve with.
For example, 29% of recruits, across all branches, reported a parent with prior service in the Army. Narrowing that down, 17% of new Army recruits reported a parent with prior service in the Army. There are many factors we can consider and attribute to why these numbers could be high or low, depending on how you look at it. Traditional Army households sometimes hold biases against the Navy and Air Force branches, but army brats may also take note of the better perks on Navy and Air Force bases.
Another big influence is attending high school near or on a military base. Specifically, DoDEA schools put a lot of money into beefing up and maintaining their JROTC programs. Even when students don’t participate in their school’s JROTC program, the influences of it are always there. Students in cadet BDU and dress uniforms in class, color guard before sports games, Drill and Marksmanship championships like the Far East and Euros. It’s all there, and it’s a subconscious parasite. Suddenly, the military life that we’ve been living, and the military careers we’ve been observing become more personal and realistic to us.
While we might not be able to immediately identify the possible adverse effect of the family business the American military has become, the DoD has. LCDR Nate Christensen, a spokesman for the Chief of Naval Personnel, acknowledged that more than 80 percent of Navy recruits are legacy recruits, and stated that “We believe that this limits both the talent pool from which the Navy draws, as well as the diversity of background in our force, and ultimately could lead to a civil-military divide,” as reported by TIME Magazine's Mark Thompson. The substantial number of recruits with family ties to the military could also be a reason for concern for JAMRS, the Joint Advertising Marketing Research & Studies, as their founding purpose is to maintain a functioning level of voluntary enlistment. The less encouragement prior service members give to their relatives who are thinking about enlisting, the fewer recruits the U.S. military will have.
While military kids experience different types of career planning pressures, especially with DoDEA’s College and Career Readiness philosophies, it doesn’t look like recruiters will have to work very hard to win over America’s military kids by simply presenting them with a familiar, one-size-fits-all career, and an opportunity to "join the family business."