The number of veterans, military personnel and their spouses recommending careers in uniform has fallen sharply in the past two years, with hunger, hardship, awakened culture and the withdrawal from Afghanistan blamed for a recruitment crisis.
Research of the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) found that the number of servicemen who would advise others to enlist between 2019 and 2021 fell nearly 12 points to 62.9 percent.
Those surveyed complained that they were short of cash and even starving. Others warned that the US military would again fall victim to the culture wars, with vigilant criticism of the armed forces deterring new recruits.
David Maxwell, a 30-year veteran of the Army’s special forces, said the US military struggled to recruit new entrants as it needed to build up manpower for a possible confrontation with tough enemies like Russia or China.
“The military is a family business, and when military families tell their children not to sign up, it sends a powerful message to everyone else, including people who are patriotic and motivated,” Maxwell told DailyMail.com.
Army General Joseph Martin spoke this week of “unprecedented challenges” in recruiting, leading to a shortage of some 10,000 soldiers this year and bigger problems on the road. Pictured: Army recruiters at a career fair in Michigan
Potential recruits were deterred by President Joe Biden’s chaotic military departure from Afghanistan in August 2021 and a perception that the “awakened culture” had left the armed forces an inhospitable place to serve, Maxwell said.
“People are concerned about the possibility of large-scale combat operations to defend our country, our allies and our way of life in a war with Russia, China, Iran or North Korea,” said Maxwell, now a think tank expert.
“It’s not the kind of wars we’ve been fighting for the past two decades.”
David Maxwell, a 30-year military veteran, is now a North Korea expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank
The MFAN survey of 8,638 military personnel, veterans and their spouses in the US and deployed abroad, conducted late last year, revealed worrying numbers in financial struggles despite their government salaries.
Three quarters were in debt, more than half could not save, 61 percent struggled to pay rent and a difficult 17 percent said they were so short on cash that they couldn’t always get enough food on the table.
Those surveyed typically had an annual household income of $25,000 to $75,000.
A husband of a serving army member, who was not named in the investigation, said the lack of health care “destroyed military families.” Another said they felt “failed to rely on others to help us feed our families.”
Richard Hudson, the Republican congressman for Fort Bragg, North Carolina, one of the world’s largest military installations, spoke about the “real challenges facing too many families” in a video accompanying the report this week.
One in six service workers in his district faced food insecurity — well above the national average, he said.
“Clearly we need to do better for our troops and veterans,” he said.
The study comes amid mounting fears of a troop shortage in the world’s best military.
Army General Joseph Martin, the army’s deputy chief of staff, spoke this week of “unprecedented challenges” in recruiting, leading to a shortage of some 10,000 soldiers this year and bigger problems over time.
The military expects to have a total fighting force of 466,400 this year, down from the expected 476,000. By the end of 2023, the number could drop further to between 445,000 and 452,000 soldiers, depending on how well recruitment and retention are going.
General Martin addressed a House Armed Services subcommittee, blaming the “post-Covid-19 environment and job market, but also competition from private companies that have changed their incentives over time.”
Army General Jack Keane told Fox News this week about the worst recruiting crisis since the 1970s, when the government abolished conscription and switched to an all-volunteer force at the end of the Vietnam War.
The House passed a $840 billion policy bill last week that would grant 4.6 percent pay increases to military personnel. It includes requirements for addressing white supremacist and neo-Nazi activities in the armed forces, over objections from Republicans.
A US Marine assists at an evacuation checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021. The chaotic departure of US troops is accused of deteriorating morale and deterring new recruits
Servicemen, veterans and their husbands and wives say money, housing, health care and maintaining long-distance relationships are major issues in the modern military