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Report says troops wouldn't recommend military service to their own kids

Spc. Yemima Tarber extended her commitment to the Army during a reenlistment ceremony that was presided over by her mother, Capt. Lisa Campbell at Fort Lee, Va. A new survey by military advocacy group Blue Star Families says most service members with multiple deployments wouldn't want their kids to go through the same hardship. (Photo by Sgt. 1st Class John Brown)


A new report from military family support organization Blue Star Families shows more than half of service members would not recommend military service to their own children. Additionally, slightly less than half of the respondents would not recommend it to other young adults who aren't related to them.

Blue Star Families has compiled the so called "Annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey" reports since 2009, which are widely used by government officials from the White House, Congress, the Department of Defense, and state and local officials to help understand the unique needs and challenges of military families. Data collected from the annual survey often impacts legislation.

This year's survey respondents consisted of a mixture of 8,390 active duty personnel, military veterans, and military and veteran spouses — a 130 percent increase over last year's survey.

Of those surveyed, enlisted service members who had been deployed more than three times were the least likely to recommend military service to their own children.

Among officers, those with less than two deployments and an employed spouse were more likely to recommend military service to young people who are not their children, but only if benefits they'd been promised when they commissioned were still in place — and generally only to those who might become officers.

Less than 20 percent of respondents said they would recommend service to anyone if the current trend of cutting benefits continued.

This could be bad news for those who consider military service to be a "family business."

"The past year has seen new and emerging security threats in numerous regions while Department of Defense budget cuts and personnel downsizing continues," Blue Star Families said in their summary of this year's findings. "The resulting operational tempo is very concerning to service members and their families."

According to the report, almost 60 percent of veterans had at least one parent who served in the military before them, but only 45 percent of currently serving military members had a parent who served prior.

The 2015 report noted that 80 percent of veteran respondents would be "happy" if their children joined the military. While that specific detail about happiness isn't reported in this year's survey, when compared to this year's 67 percent who would not recommend service to their children, it does appear to show a downward pattern of service members who want their children to follow in their footsteps.

"Extended family separations, frequent moves, and outdated expectations that military spouses sublimate their personal, professional, and familial priorities to support their service member's military service are the most prevalent topics identified as substantially reducing the quality of life and attractiveness of martial service," Blue Star Families said. "Military families understand that serving may mean making sacrifices in support of service; however, DoD must also examine the military necessity of the burdens it asks military families to bear."

The survey isn't all bad news for the family business of military service. Military spouses who are able to maintain a career were 36 percent more likely to recommend it, and a whopping 76 percent of all spouses surveyed who felt that the military had a positive or neutral career impact were likely to recommend service.

There were two surprising findings elsewhere in the report: almost 80 percent of respondents were satisfied with the military lifestyle, and over 80 percent were satisfied with Tricare Standard.

You can view the Executive Summary on Blue Star Family's website.

Blue Star Families 2016 Military Lifestyle Survey at a glance.

"This year's survey results show a military community at a point of inflection. It shows the country needs to get smarter about what a healthy All-Volunteer Force really looks like—and what it needs it to look like to ensure future success," Blue Star Families argued. "The All-Volunteer Force was not designed for our current security environment of protracted low-level conflict, nor was it designed for the modern service member—who is better educated, married with children, and living in an increasingly diverse and inclusive society."

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