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Why Young Americans Don't Want To Serve In Today's Military

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Army I served in for seven and a half years no longer exists. I am forever grateful to have gotten to serve and defend our great nation in both Iraq and Afghanistan, but the military today is no longer a kill-your-enemies and win wars machine that I once recognized…it has evolved into an indoctrination institution more focused on pronouns and identity politics than accomplishing the mission. It's often said the military is a reflection of society and that notion makes it stronger, but that is a fallacy. The military should NOT be a reflection of society. It should be made up of young men and women who want to sign up to serve with the patriotic purpose of violently seeking out and destroying our enemies to win wars and protect our way of life. That’s it. 


But sadly, the Pentagon has become a political institution, one that has prioritized woke culture, diversity, equity and inclusion. This is not a reflection of those who wear the uniform, have fought in foreign lands or those who joined as their patriotic duty to protect our nation - instead, it is a damning indictment of Pentagon political leadership and the generals and colonels who enforce it, as clearly reflected in the latest and unprecedented recruitment and retention failures, where even the small percentage of Americans able to serve, aren’t interested in doing so. As of June, with only three months left in the fiscal year, the Army only met 40% of its enlisted recruiting numbers. Woke policies hurt the military as a whole, but instead of taking corrective action, Department of Defense leadership have embraced and are now enforcing them. 

On Thursday, the Army responded with a dual-signed memo from the Secretary of the Army, Christine Wormuth and the Chief of Staff of the Army, General McConnville, to address these failures, but the memo comes up short. Sure, it may serve as an attempt to mitigate the PR disaster that reigned down on the Pentagon this week and helps send a message of false reassurance to those in command and those serving, but it doesn’t actually acknowledge or address the self-inflicted problems. Instead it focuses on areas that may be quick fix, but will not ensure long-term solutions.


The memo states it “will not lower our standards,” which is noble and optimistic, but not sustainable or realistic to maintain current recruitment and end strength requirements. Make no mistake, in the near future, if the Army wants to maintain the current end strength numbers with an All-Volunteer Force, it will be forced to compromise in specific areas. In the meantime, in order to make ends meet, the Army is throwing (significant) money at the problem, including $50,000 signing bonuses to those who qualify. 

The memo also states that it “will invest in America’s young people so they can meet our standards.” Our nation’s youth are more informed than ever before due to social media and the internet - the Army investing in them, or lack thereof, is not why they aren’t joining. They see in real time the problems that plague the military today, how soldiers and their families use TikTok to air their grievances, and how politics have replaced Army values. They see failures of leadership and the consequences that come with it: A failed 20 year war in Afghanistan; wars fought with lawyers; a botched withdrawal that got 13 service members killed and drone strike that killed 10 civilians, including children, and the Pentagon lying about it, calling it a “righteous strike.” Operational and strategic failures in the post 9/11 era combined with woke policies are why people aren’t joining. 


Woke policies that ebb and flow with political cycles are a very real threat to our military -  they have damaged readiness, recruitment and retention to the point that it will have long-term consequences on our fighting force, the beginning of what we are seeing today. This shows a weakness in military strategic planning that has long-term national security implications. People are smart enough to realize that upon their service they will be used as political pawns. Service mmbers are now held hostage to gender inclusion, pronouns, critical race theory, transgender appeasement, COVID vaccine mandates, DEI, extremisms training and more.

While China has a 20-50-100 year plan to become the global dominant power that it focuses on daily, the U.S. military is on a four year political cycle plan driven by woke policies. These days, our generals are more focused on writing memos and appeasing the woke mob than solving looming problems like recruitment issues and preparing our fighting force for our next war - Let’s just hope we don’t have a serious one anytime soon. 

Amber Smith is a former Pentagon official and U.S. Army Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. She is the author of the book Danger Close. Follow her on Twitter @AmberSmithUSA.


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