The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told more than 100 military recruiters that their work is vital to mission accomplishment, especially in an environment in which people who influence potential recruits are reluctant to steer them toward service in uniform.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen spoke to the recruiters at the University of Southern California.
“We just cannot be a military without successful recruiters,” Mullen said. “Recruiting is as important a duty assignment as any, and we need good people from every branch of service to recruit young people into the military.”
The military is busier than at any other time in the nation’s history, Mullen said. The past six-plus years of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the frequency of deployments, the lack of time at home stations between deployments and the expectations for success have made serving in today’s armed forces more challenging than ever, he added.
“The environment you’re recruiting in is the toughest we’ve ever known, and it’s a tough world to be engaged in,” he said. “We recognize there are challenges, but we just can’t move forward without what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.”
The fact that the military has sustained such a high tempo as an all-volunteer force makes it the best military the United States has ever had, the admiral said. Recruiting has been surprisingly successful in recent years, he added, but he noted that the characteristics that make the current generation of servicemembers so great are the same ones that make the recruiters’ jobs more difficult.
Today’s generation lives in a time of persistent conflict, he said, and a great many young people feel a responsibility to serve the nation in a time of need. But parents, teachers and other mentors are more reluctant to support the military, knowing that if their young people join, they’re likely going to war.
The stress of two wars is straining on the military, as thousands of soldiers and Marines have deployed to combat three or four times since 2002. Mullen said increasing time between deployments, thus reducing the number of deployments by individuals, will be helpful when it can happen, but as long as the military needs to sustain its current high-tempo pace, recruiters are going to be among the Defense Department’s top priorities.
“Your avocation to recruit young people into the military is as vital as any part of our profession,” he said. “I depend on you as great leaders, and there’s no success that gets generated more quickly and can be sustained more readily than that which occurs through great leadership.”