The Army’s been having a hell of a time filling its ranks. In late April, the service announced it would not meet its goal of picking up 80,000 new active-duty soldiers, with only 28,000 new recruits halfway through the annual recruiting cycle. Although Army Sgt. Maj. Daniel Dailey told the Associated Press that the branch had reduced its target to 76,500 new recruits, he insisted that higher reenlistment rates (86%, compared to 81% in years past) were making up the difference.
The morning after Veterans Day, USA Today published an investigation that rippled through the Army community: This August, for the first time since soldier suicides spiked in 2009, the service began offering waivers to recruits with histories of drug and alcohol abuse, depression, bipolar disorder, and “self-mutilating” behaviors like cutting — conditions that previously disqualified would-be enlistees.
These days, U.S. military recruitment videos reek of Hollywood sensationalism, as if joining the armed forces will automatically transform you into Jason Bourne. There’s no heart. No soul. No balls. But back in the ‘80s, when men were men and women had mullets, the military’s recruitment strategy was all red, white, and blue. Take this 1988 country music-inflected Army commercial, for example. If this doesn’t make you want to serve your country, well, comrade, you might as well start saving up for that hammer and sickle tattoo now.