US Army recruitment campaigns, ranked from worst to best

Most soldiers have a valid reason for joining the military: family, patriotism, better opportunities — chances are they made their mind up long ago. For those who joined during a “huh, that sounds like a good idea!” moment, they probably got the idea after seeing a television commercial or billboard — complete with noteworthy slogans.

While this list is compiled fairly loosely, it still illustrates a range from complete sh*tshow to absolutely iconic:

7. Army of One (2001 to 2006)

Oh boy. There’s no contest on which slogan goes to the very bottom.

Not only did it invoke the sense of individuality over teamwork, but all of the quotes that went on the posters just came off as pretentious.

Army of One

But it did give us the video game Army of Two, which was a fun game. So there’s that.

6. Look Sharp, Be Sharp, Go Army! (1950 to early 70’s)

This slogan was plastered on billboards around the country. But during the draft, the second slogan was kind of…mean: “Your future, your decision…choose ARMY.”

Not really your decision if you’re drafted, huh?

Your Future your decision

Maybe this was meant to be a warning before the draft chose for you?

5. Join the people who’ve joined the Army (mid 70’s)

Because of slogans like “Today’s Army Wants to Join You” (whaaaat?) and because of the rumors that there was beer in the barracks and loose rules and things like that, “…it was perceived by a great many Americans that the Army would be an undisciplined Army,” said Secretary of the Army Bo Callaway.

This campaign was very short lived before the Army reverted back to the next entry on our list because of a kickback scandal involving the ad agency. It was fairly basic in just giving the facts. It was created out of the fear of soldiers drinking in the barracks…which totally never happens…


(YouTube, Brian Durham)

4. Today’s Army Wants to Join You (early 70’s to 1980)

After the Vietnam War came to an end, the Army had a bit of an image problem. Drafting men to fight in an era of hippies took its toll when it came time to transition into an all-volunteer Army.

So the Army loosened many of its restrictions to try to appeal to the more free lifestyle of the youth counter-culture. It was a twist on the classic “I Want You for U.S. Army” poster with the added intensive that the Army would “care more about how you think than how you cut your hair.”

I mean, it was effective. So it lands firmly in the middle of the list.

Today's Army Advertisement

The recruiter isn’t lying, per se…

3. Army Strong (2006 to Present)

After the blunder that was “Army of One,” they decided to strip down the advertisements to just show all the cool things you can do in the Army.

Nothing but the bare bones of soldiers doing awesome things. No lies being spread. No sense of individuality trumping your unit. Just “Look how cool this sh*t is!” Plus it gave us a catchy theme song that gets stuck in everyone’s head after a battalion run.

(The only down side is that the other branches definitely use this slogan against the Army.)

there's strong and then there's army strong, army meme, humor, army slogan

WTF is happening in this picture?

2. Be All You Can Be (1980 to 2001)

The Cold War still had not thawed when they came up with this scheme but then it seemed to fit with everything 80’s and 90’s — so it stuck.

The emphasis was more on using cool promises to get lost high schoolers to join after graduation. I hate to break it to the kid below, but are a lot of steps before you can become a pilot.


(YouTube, Video Archeology)

1. I Want YOU for US Army (WWI to WWII)

You can’t beat the classics.

The original James M. Flagg poster turned countless heads across the country during the first World War. Even after the armistice, the posters stuck around.

The iconic poster made its round again to bring the Greatest Generation back into the fray. It has since been imitated, referenced, and adapted, even if it was also a reference to the British “Your Country Needs YOU” campaign.

I want you for us army

Would you have ranked it differently? Were there any we left out? Let us know in the comment section!

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