The United States Military after the Iraq Invasion:
Maintaining Quality and Quantity
Generally when one thinks of business management, one thinks of a corporation. However, one of the largest business operations in the world is not a business in the traditional sense – it is a government entity – the United States Military. The American Military “employs” hundreds and hundreds of thousands of men and women in all different fields of operation. These “employees” are not all soldiers. Many of them are physicians, or engineers, or scientists, and various kinds of support personnel. This “army” of workers is scattered at locations all across the globe. The logistical requirements of such a vast and complex organization would scare off even the most seasoned corporate boss. The work that many of the military’s staff perform is hazardous in the extreme. A surprising amount of it, too, is of a highly technical nature such that it requires significant numbers of specially-trained individuals. Under the very best of conditions, it would be difficult to maintain personnel at adequate levels. The Iraq War has cast a dark shadow over virtually every aspect of military recruitment and management. Prior to the war, many young men and women were attracted to the military by promises of educational funding, career development, and an opportunity to show love of one’s country, and defend the rights and freedoms of all Americans. but, as members of the nation’s armed forces began to die, or returned home in considerably less-than-perfect physical condition, potential recruits started to take a long, hard look at the true meaning of a stint in the military. The quick, easy victory that had been “sold” by the Administration of President George W. Bush was fast becoming a long, drawn out, war-of-attrition, with no clear end in sight. What impact does this change in attitude have on military recruitment? What impact does it have on how our Government manages its military? What are the long-term effects of the Iraq War on the military of the new millennium?
For years the American Military had been filling its ranks thanks to an elaborate, and on the whole quite effective, public advertising campaign. The American military draft came to an end on June 30, 1973. (Friedman, 1975, p. 187) the unpopularity of the Vietnam War, and a general lack of public, and congressional support for the continuation of conscription, (Friedman, 1975, p. 187) meant that, from then on, the Department of Defense would have to make use of a variety of creative methods to staff what would now be an all volunteer army. The substitution of a volunteer army for a conscript army was believed to have many advantages:
The draft creates… morale and disciplinary problems which otherwise would not arise… Dissent within the military presents particularly ticklish problems within the armed forces of a free nation. Problems raised by the forced military service of those who are unwilling or unable to adjust to military life will largely be overcome by voluntary recruiting.”
(Cortright & Watts, 1991, p. 78)
Successful military recruitment depends on identifying the proper populations for the appropriate positions. As a majority of those recruited will be used as ordinary combat personnel i.e. they are not highly trained scientists, medical personnel, etc., military recruiters must understand both the characteristics of the “ideal combat personnel” as well as those factors that would motivate these people to serve. Personal Development, Desire for a Military Career, Pay and Benefits, and Career Development, have all been identified as primary motivating forces for the typical recruit. (Griffith & Perry, 1993, p. 127) as a result, military recruitment campaigns emphasized such points as the capacity for building character, the opportunity to serve one’s country, and also the receipt of (at least partial) college tuition, and vocational training.
Through the 1970s and 1980s, for example, military recruitment ads could be found on television and other advertising media…. The use of generic American patriotism in ads, an ad referent system that increased in popularity during the 1980s… reference to “America” in U.S. advertising is more often found than reference to the home nation in other countries’ advertising.
(McAllister, 1993, p. 219)
There is thus something special about being an “American”… At least in the popular imagination. People who join the volunteer armed forces believe that they are helping their country, “giving something back,” or in some other way, advancing the interests, and even more significantly, the ideals of the United States of America. During the First Gulf War, even general advertising for products entirely unrelated to the military began to make use of patriotic and pro-war themes.
One element that purified the war in advertising was the implied group consensus…. In many ads, the entire company (“We Support the Troops!”), as well as the entire country (“Show Our Support!”), was behind the war effort. In the world of war advertising, there is no war dissent and no war protests. The country is completely united in its support. (McAllister, 1993, p. 228)
There is nothing like having everyone behind you!
Of course this sort of pro-American, “super patriotism,” can only be effective in cases where the public support for a war is at least somewhere near a as strong as the government, and advertisers, would have us believe. The patriotic motivation is a particularly powerful one because it includes so many of the other rationales for joining the material. Being a patriot – especially a fervent patriot – means finding intense emotional satisfaction in aligning oneself with a cause that is large than oneself, and one’s immediate family and community. It implies a commitment to an intangible ideal, one that admits of few, if any, imperfections. Patriotism permits one to do things that, in other circumstances, one might never have considered doing. Patriotism also spurs us on, “to do our very best.” It is a highly exhilarating experience during which one can fulfill a host of . One becomes a “better person” by learning new skills that are of use to one’s compatriots. One is perhaps inspired to return to school, or to study harder if one is still in school – all in the name of a .
As for the particular advertising campaigns selected by the United States Military, one of the best known was probably that which featured the slogan “Be all that you can be.” While an admirable and uplifting sentiment (think “Patriotism”), the armed forces eventually ran into problems with this particular campaign. “This message had created false expectations that were ‘subsequently refuted by personal experience’ and may have resulted in ‘a deleterious effect on active duty soldiers’ morale, degree of commitment to the military, and reenlistment consideration.’ (Karsten, 2001, p. 61) You can only make things sound so good. Eventually, promises of achievements that rarely, or never, materialize will result in a questioning of the entire promise. The “word of mouth” upon which the success of these advertising campaigns ultimately depended would eventually guarantee that potential recruits would be “talked out of” signing up, by friends or relatives, who had already had the “privilege.”
Essentially, the “Be all that you can be” Campaign was about achieving the “American Dream.” It has long been a part of the myth of American Self-Consciousness that, in America, one could be, or become, anything – just as long as you worked hard enough for it.
Nevertheless, it was possible to modify this idea to something that would appear more realistically achievable – the idea of the “Army of One.” In a hypothetical “Army of One” there is no one to compete against but oneself. One is still fulfilling the American Dream, just a different version of it. Whereas the original campaign made the unrealistic promise of over-achievement, the new thrust was on the kind of self-reliance, personal initiative, and quick-thinking that Americans could associate with the “way the West was won,” or any number of other manifestations of the country’s vaunted “rugged-individualism.” The concept also encourages a considerable amount of self-satisfaction. If one believes strongly enough in the campaign’s central idea, then one can take personal credit for any of various successes the military might have. One’s own personal contributions to the Armed Forces, and to America, becomes magnified out of all proportion to one’s actually contributions or talents. On the whole, this was a clever manipulation of the inherently selfish aims of much modern thought and education. Used carefully and correctly, it could also be fused with the goals of the earlier advertising campaign. In this sense, one might speak of victories achieved by thousand and thousands, of tiny “armies of one” – a grand alliance of proud, patriotic, and capable Americans.
Basically, a successful recruitment program must encourage the enlistment of persons who truly understand the purpose of their military career. As can be seen, the “be all you can be” Campaign failed, in part, because it was too grandiose – it promised touch, thus creating unrealistic expectations. An increasing amount of research is now being done on the ultimate purpose of recruitment, in a larger sense.
The USMC has established an immediate, direct, and clear relationship between recruiting and socialization.” (Baker & Jennings, 2000, p. 369) by “socialization,” the United States Marine Corps (USMC) means the precise functioning of each individual Marine in relation to the entire corps. Every marine, like every soldier in the regular army, and every sailor in the Navy, is destined for a specific purpose. While military personnel may possess wide training in many different areas, there is nonetheless, a definite “military culture.” Each and every member of America’s Armed Forces – and those of all other nations as well – must fully understand how it is that they contribute to the organization tyo which they belong. The above-mentioned advertising campaigns focused mostly on very personal reasons for considering a military career. Unfortunately, personnel reasons do not always add up to the realities of military service, neither in terms of what the recruit can expect once he or she joins up, nor in terms of what the military expects from its recruits. This “socialization information” can be summed up as follows:
1) the value of receiving accurate pre-hire information has been well documented.
It has been suggested that the information supplied to the prospective employee is, in fact, an attempt to convey the organizational “culture”
3) That includes artifacts (audible and visible patterns of behavior, symbols, and rites), values (an individual’s positive or negative response to the artifacts), and the underlying ideas and assumptions that ground the values and artifacts. (Baker & Jennings, 2000, p. 369)
The United States Marine Corps has made a concerted effort toward enunciating its particular culture of socialization, as this offers a more scientific method [than “feel-good” advertisements] of screening recruits, and weeding out those who would not make “good” Marines. (Baker & Jennings, 2000, p. 369)
Military Recruitment and Management