Government officials are worried that the military is not diversified enough. A recent report showed that the majority of service members are part of what they call the family business, meaning military service runs in the family.
A surprising 80 percent of recent troops “come from a family where at least one parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, sibling or cousin has also worn their nation’s uniform. More than 25% have a parent who has served,” according to a Pentagon report of 2012-2013 recruits.
Military service is a wonderful and proud tradition within many families.
What problem could the government possibly have with military service legacy?
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee subcommittee discussed this topic recently in length. They are worried that the pool of service members is not as diversified as it could be.
When America had the draft, the military was made up of a more diverse population. At the height of the Vietnam War there were 3.5 million troops. They came for all walks of life, had different religious beliefs, different levels of education, different ideals and different backgrounds.
Now the military has closer to 1.4 million service members. The number of men and women entering the military is shrinking and so is the diversity within it.
If the military continues to mainly be made up of those in the family business, the military will continue to shrink and so will its diversity, or so the government thinks.
The pool of potential recruits is dwindling, which is going to force the Pentagon to think outside the family on ways to recruit new troops.
Lt. Commander Nate Christensen is the spokesperson for the Chief of Naval Personnel. He said the reason behind their worry is
We believe that this limits both the talent pool from which the Navy draws, as well as the diversity of background in our force, and ultimately could lead to a civil-military divide.
The Navy has a long tradition of sailors in the family business as 82 percent of them come from families with other service members.
The Air Force has an even greater number of families with multiple service members.
Eighty-six percent of current airmen have close relatives that have served in the military. The Army and Marines also have large numbers, 79 percent and 77 percent, of those in the family business.
Why do so many people decide to follow in the military service footsteps of their family members?
People make choices based on the life they have led and the people they have grown up with. Service members are likely to influence their family members to either join or not to join the military. Many that do join the military also enter the same branch of service that their family members were in. Fifty-nine percent of Army recruits come from a family that has close relatives in the Army.
The traditional make-up of the military no longer stands however. What was once mostly middle- and working-class men is now diversified with women in many of the positions.
There has been a large influx of women entering the military in the last few years as well. With the military opening doors to careers in fields women were not eligible to go into previously, the trend is set to continue. The military overall is shrinking, but in the last decade, the number of women joining the military has increased.
The government can’t afford to simply count on those entering the family business to keep the military strong. They’re going to have to start thinking outside the norm and recruit fresh blood, so to speak.
There are so many opportunities available in this age that the younger generation is not enlisting at the rate of previous years. The Pentagon is going to have to find a new incentive to get talented people to join the military.
In doing so, however, I hope that they don’t diminish the pride service members feel in continuing a family tradition. The term “family business” is being turned into a negative, when in fact it is a wonderful thing. I come from a family with a long line of service members and I married a sailor. I don’t know if our son will grow up and join the military, but I will be proud to have him in the family business, if he decides to.