The youth of today seems to have zero interest in joining the military and the military can’t seem to figure out why that is. They’ve done studies, conducted polls and the Army even knows that Gen Z has some serious misconceptions about the military. Despite a $4 billion investment in marketing to Gen Z, the combined branches of the military will miss their recruiting goals by nearly 19,000 in 2023.
Many people in the military and in government believe the recruiting crisis is a serious national security risk, but the military itself just keeps falling short of reaching (or appealing to) Americans born after 1997 – so-called Generation Z. But one Marine officer, a lieutenant and a member of that generation, has written a book detailing what he believes are problems and solutions, and presents research to back it up.
Lt. Matthew Weiss took it upon himself to research and write “We Don't Want You, Uncle Sam: Examining the Military Recruiting Crisis with Generation Z." As a member of Gen Z with a background working for the defense technology firm Anduril Industries, he saw how companies jockey to attract and retain young talent coming from anywhere in the country. He also earned a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School before joining the Corps.
Most importantly, the military was able to attract him, a talented, educated 25-year-old man who could have done anything. Knowing why he, a member of the military’s key target demographic, decided to join the Marine Corps is probably the most unique insight of all.
Weiss breaks down what he believes are 21 key issues across four distinct areas that are the core problems keeping Gen Z and the military apart. He then backs up his reasoning with painstaking research with "the intention of diagnosing and solving a real and serious issue facing our nation," he writes.
There are a few issues he addresses that other generations would expect about Gen Z, such as the power of social media influencers. The U.S. military, he says, can counter that with influencers of their own. Another sticking point is the military pay structure: everyone gets paid the same regardless of performance. This is a generation that watches peers gain followers and influence (and thus more money) through performance. The military, he says, could introduce performance bonus pay.
On the other hand, there are problems and solutions that may not be as obvious, according to the book. These kinds of problems and solutions could be the key because the military is uniquely suited to address them. First off, Generation Z needs a calling, one they strive for and work toward. It needs to be larger than life, bigger than themselves.
What better place to answer that calling than the U.S. military?
Moreover, this is a generation that is constantly receiving updates, pings and dings from their phone. It’s beginning to have a negative effect on them, and they crave time away from the screens and sounds of their daily life to go out and do something “unplugged” and reset. The military can offer this time spent doing real-world responsibility-bearing activities like no other institution, so all is not lost.
For a full rundown on what the United States military can do to appeal to its youngest generation of military-age Americans, check out “We Don't Want You, Uncle Sam: Examining the Military Recruiting Crisis with Generation Z” – on sale now in both paperback and on Amazon Kindle e-readers.