Get Task & Purpose in your inbox
Military Millennials’ Bad Reputation Is Undeserved
Millennials have gotten a bad rap for a little while now. Many military personnel and civilians alike rant in person and online about how millennials are lazy and entitled. While those disparaging remarks may or may not have merit outside the military, those millennials in the military have nothing to be ashamed of. While millennials may be different from those who preceded them, they are equals to any of their forebears.
The Army Times recently opened an article about millennials with the line, “Are so-called ‘millennials,’ born in 1980 or later — soft?” Based on the active-duty personnel the Times interviewed, a substantial number believe the answer is “yes.” Apparently they’re so different that they even need an operator’s guide. Much like articles in men’s magazines trying to figure out the mystery behind women, the suggestions often come down to “treat them like people.”
A little perspective is in order. Elder troops have been criticizing their juniors since the days of the Roman legions. That has never, and will never, change. The regular troops who served in the peacetime interwar years of the 1920s and 1930s looked down at the draftees as they flowed in during World War II. The World War II and Korean War vets looked down on the Vietnam generation, and so on.
Meanwhile, today’s troops rightly look back on their forebears with respect, but just as with any nostalgia, they see only the good while forgetting the bad. For example, during World War II, the desertion problem was so bad that MPs even had firefights with the deserter GIs who ran black markets in France. That’s not said to impugn the service of those who came before, but to make clear the fact that every generation, even the mythologized “Greatest Generation,” had its shortcomings and challenges.
When I, a Generation Xer, came on active duty in 1995, there was the potential for service in combat, but it was far from a certain thing. The only major combat operation from the end of the Vietnam War until Sept. 11, 2001 was the exceptionally short first Gulf War, the veterans of which are now almost gone from active duty. Few of my peers saw any combat or major contingency operations until after 9/11.
Today’s military came of age during the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and a dozen smaller battlegrounds in the “Global War on Terror,” or whatever the blanket term du jour is. All of those started after Sept. 11, 2001. The vast majority of the U.S. military’s collective combat experience has come since 9/11, and millennials have been serving on the front lines that whole time.
Almost all millennials in the military joined after 2001. Service in combat theater was a certainty for them, yet they joined anyway. Even the younger millennials, those who don't even remember 9/11, joined even though they’ve never known a military not at war. That’s the distinguishing characteristic of this generation.
Those enlistees of 2001 are the staff noncommissioned officers of today. The boot lieutenants are now senior majors and new lieutenant colonels. Yes, that means your commanding officer might be a millennial.
People still complain about the quality of millennials, even though recruits’ education and ASVAB scores have steadily improved since the volunteer force was established over 40 years ago.
While physical fitness of new recruits may indeed leave something to be desired, that seems a small price to pay for a smart, dedicated force that joined with the intention of serving in battle. Physical fitness can be fixed with a few extra runs led by their Generation X superiors, but you can’t fix stupid, and you can't make someone volunteer for service in a military at war.
If you want to poke fun at the millennial misspelling your name at Starbucks or sputtering juvenile silliness at a political rally, have at it. But your brothers and sisters-at-arms? They took the oath, just as you did, and are pulling their load in the longest sustained period of combat in American history. They might not be the Greatest Generation, but they are a great generation.
Now you can relive the glory days of screaming "fire for effect" before lobbing rounds down range, and you can do it from the comfort of your own backyard, or living room, without having to worry that some random staff sergeant is going to show up and chew you out for your unsat face scruff and Johnny Bravo 'do.
The leader of a Chicago-area street gang has been arrested and charged with attempting to aid the ISIS terrorist group, the Department of Justice said Friday.
Jason Brown, also known as "Abdul Ja'Me," allegedly gave $500 on three separate occasions in 2019 to a confidential informant Brown believed would then wire it to an ISIS fighter engaged in combat in Syria. The purported ISIS fighter was actually an undercover law enforcement officer, according to a DoJ news release.
My brother earned the Medal of Honor for saving countless lives — but only after he was left for dead
"As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night."
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
Air Force Master Sgt. John "Chappy" Chapman is my brother. As one of an elite group, Air Force Combat Control — the deadliest and most badass band of brothers to walk a battlefield — John gave his life on March 4, 2002 for brothers he never knew.
They were the brave men who comprised a Quick Reaction Force (QRF) that had been called in to rescue the SEAL Team 6 team (Mako-30) with whom he had been embedded, which left him behind on Takur Ghar, a desolate mountain in Afghanistan that topped out at over 10,000 feet.
As I learned while researching a book about John, the SEAL ground commander, Cmdr. Tim Szymanski, had stupidly and with great hubris insisted on insertion being that night. After many delays, the mission should and could have been pushed one day, but Szymanski ordered the team to proceed as planned, and Britt "Slab" Slabinski, John's team leader, fell into step after another SEAL team refused the mission.
But the "plan" went even more south when they made the rookie move to insert directly atop the mountain — right into the hands of the bad guys they knew were there.
Sen. Rick Scott is backing a bipartisan bill that would allow service members to essentially sue the United States government for medical malpractice if they are injured in the care of military doctors.
The measure has already passed the House and it has been introduced in the Senate, where Scott says he will sign on as a co-sponsor.
"As a U.S. Senator and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, taking care of our military members, veterans and their families is my top priority," the Florida Republican said in a statement.