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Generation Z & Understanding The Military

Today’s young people, or Generation Z, could benefit from the Army’s opportunities, if only they were more aware of them, the service’s top civilian leader said.

“The market research that we've done indicates that a lot of Americans just don't understand the military, don't understand all of the opportunities that the U.S. Army, in particular, offers,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said.

Though 64% of Americans indicated that people look up to those who have served, half of the adults surveyed in 2019 by the Pew Research Center said that they would not advise a young person close to them to join the military.

Speaking March 1 at an event hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Wormuth said the Army is “an unlimiter.”

“We offer 178 different military occupational specialties,” she said. “Yes, you can be in the infantry. Yes, you can drive tanks or fly helicopters. But you can also be a data scientist, a coder, an engineer, a doctor, a nurse, a lawyer, even a chef. The list goes on and on.”

Wormuth dispelled the misconception that Army service and a college education are mutually exclusive.

“Sometimes families think that going into the Army will keep their kids from going to college, but, in fact, the opposite is true,” she said. “We can help kids go to college, we can help dependents and spouses be able to go to college.”

Facing “the most significant recruiting challenge … in decades,” the Army is working to ensure that its soldiers have a positive command climate, Wormuth said.

“We've got to have people who are willing to put their lives on the line on the battlefield, and to do that you have to trust your battle [buddies],” she said. “To have that trust, we have to have our soldiers be in a positive command climate where they feel safe and respected and are not worried about mistreatment, sexual harassment [and] sexual assault.”

Though some are service-eligible, younger Americans today are in a public service lull, Wormuth said. “The number of young Americans who are interested in military service … it’s like 9% of young people … but it speaks to a broader dearth in our public right now of interest in public service,” she said.

In America’s “hyperpartisan environment,” the military offers a chance to build a more cohesive union, Wormuth said.

“Civil-military relations [are] incredibly important,” she said. “We are so divided in many ways that I think we really need to find ways to rebuild the center. And I think civics and an emphasis on civil discourse would help us do that.”

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