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Army Secretary lays out plan to overcome the Army’s negative image and win over Generation Z

“They want community. They want purpose. They want what they’re doing to matter”
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Secretary of the U.S. Army Honorable Christine Wormuth shares lunch with soldiers during her visit in Wiesbaden, Germany, Sept. 20, 2022. (Volker Ramspott/Released/U.S. Army)

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth acknowledged that the Army has struggled to recruit from Generation Z. But on Friday, she laid out potential ways for the service branch to overcome young Americans’ doubts in the Army.

Stars and Stripes first reported on Wormuth’s comments. The Army Secretary was speaking at an interview hosted by the think tank the Center for New American Security on Friday, Nov. 18. She laid out the challenges the Army was facing in recruiting. The Army had aimed to recruit 60,000 new soldiers in the previous fiscal year. It only got 45,000. The Army’s total force is approximately 465,000.

“It’s a pretty big shortfall,” Wormuth said, according to Stars and Stripes. The Army was facing a series of obstacles in making the service appealing. Some of those challenges have been clear for months. In May, Wormuth told Task & Purpose that the Army needed to do more to address concerns about assaults, sexual harassment and suicide within Army ranks. 

While speaking at the dinner, Wormuth said that those challenges have become a part of the Army’s public image as a whole. As a result, she said, only 9 percent of Generation Z, the youngest generation eligible to serve in the military, are interested in doing so.

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“[Parents are] worried that if [their] kid joins the Army they’re going to suffer psychological harm or they’re going to be sexually harassed,” she said. “So we have to put our money where our mouth is — actions speak louder than words. We have got to show results in this area and not just talk about it.”

Some of those solutions are policy changes, such as new regulation for suicide prevention. Wormuth said that the Army is currently working on hiring and training workers to help in that field, with a goal of hiring 200 more in 2023. 

Despite the challenges, Wormuth argued that the Army is a fit for Gen Z. The job is to “reintroduce” the Army to younger Americans, to win them over. 

“They want community. They want purpose. They want what they’re doing to matter,” she said at the dinner.

Despite the military’s need to recruit from the younger generation of Americans, the Department of Defense’s own assessments of Gen Z have not been the most positive. Most of the criticism has been toward Gen Z’s physical abilities. A release from earlier this year called out “the Nintendo Generation” and its sedentary lifestyle, which the military said hurts their skeleton’s durability. Another report found that only 23% are eligible to serve, based on academic and fitness scores. As a result, the Army has tried ways to overcome that, both through offering enlistment bonuses as well as launching a training program for potential soldiers ahead of boot camp.

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