According to the U.S. Dept. of Labor electricians, carpenters, construction workers and computer systems specialists will soon be the most sought after and highest paid workers in the U.S. In fact the median annual pay for these professions ranges from $45,000 - $87,000 per year.
During times of economic downturn, skilled trades and technical certifications are generally shielded from layoffs like others are, as well.
The DoD has worked with the Departments of Labor, Education and Veteran's Affairs to develop many ways for you to pursue vocational and technical licensing and certification. These programs are designed to to either document your training and experience or offer you the opportunity to take courses, exams and practicals to get the types of certification and licensing that are vital to your eventual transition into the civilian workforce.
Many of these programs are available to you while you are on active duty. Some even allow you to attend training instead of performing your normal duties. Others let you get certifications which will transfer to civilian jobs based on your military skills, training and specialties. Still other programs allow you to use your military training to complete a technical or college degree.
As a service member or veteran you have several programs available that will help you get Vocational/Technical (VocTech) Training, Professional Licensing, Certification, and On-the-Job Training (OJT - veterans only). The following table will provide you links to further information and descriptions of programs that are available to you:
Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, Military.com can help. Subscribe to Military.com to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.
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The Veterans Readiness and Employment Program (previously known as the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program), sometimes referred to as VR&E, Chapter 31 or Voc-Rehab, helps veterans with service-connected disabilities and employment handicaps prepare for, find, and keep suitable jobs. For veterans with service-connected disabilities so severe that they cannot immediately consider work, VR&E offers services to Improve their ability to live as independently as possible.
The VRE program can provide:
Eligibility and entitlement are two different things. You may be eligible for VR&E due to having a service-connected disability rating, yet not be entitled to services. The first step in the VR&E process is to be evaluated to determine if you qualify for services. To receive an evaluation for VR&E services, a veteran must meet the following "eligibility" criteria:
If the VA determines that an employment handicap exists as a result of a service-connected disability, you will be entitled to services. You and the VRC will then continue counseling to select a track of services and jointly develop a plan to address your rehabilitation and employment needs.
The rehabilitation plan will specify an employment or independent living goal, identify intermediate goals, outline services and resources needed to achieve these goals. You and the VRC will work together to implement the plan and achieve successful rehabilitation.
If the VRC determines that you are not entitled to services, they will help you locate other resources to address any rehabilitation and employment needs identified during the evaluation. These resources may include state vocational rehabilitation programs, Department of Labor employment programs for disabled veterans etc.
If you believe that you may be eligible for VR&E services, you can get started today by applying online.
Like many VA benefits, VR&E has a limited period of eligibility. The basic period of eligibility in for VR&E services is 12 years from the date of separation, or the date the veteran was first notified by VA of a service-connected disability rating, whichever came later.
Once your eligibility has been established you will be scheduled to meet with a VRC for a comprehensive evaluation to determine if you are "entitled" to Veterans Readiness and Employment services. This entitlement evaluation includes the following:
If your counselor determines that you are eligible for benefits they will work with you to:
A rehabilitation plan is an individualized, written outline of the services, resources and criteria that will be used to achieve successful rehabilitation. It is an agreement that is signed by the veteran and the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor and is reviewed annually to determine whether any changes may be needed.
Depending on your circumstances, you will work with the VRC to select one of the following Five Tracks of services:
After a plan is developed and signed, your VRC will continue to work with you to implement the plan to achieve suitable employment or independent living. The VRC or case manager may coordinate services such as tutorial assistance, training in job-seeking skills, medical and dental referrals, adjustment counseling, payment of training allowance, if applicable, and other services as required to achieve rehabilitation.
In addition to receiving a monthly payment while attending training through VR&E, you may also qualify for a monthly subsistence allowance. This is paid each month during training and is based on the rate of attendance (full-time or part-time), the number of dependents, and the type of training. For example a full-time attendee with two dependents could receive up to $1,057.65 a month. View the current VR&E Subsistence Allowance Rates.
Whether you need a guide on how to use your GI Bill, want to take advantage of tuition assistance and scholarships, or get the lowdown on education benefits available for your family, Military.com can help. Subscribe to Military.com to have education tips and benefits updates delivered directly to your inbox.
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It can be a struggle for transitioning veterans to connect their military experience to potential civilian employers — especially when applying to work in industries different from those they excelled in during service.
Britt Brown, who served in the Air Force as a commissioned officer for six and a half years, achieving the rank of captain, says, “I was very intentional about seeking out resources to help support a successful transition.”
According to Jacqueline Owens, talent acquisition lead — military recruiting at PayPal, Brown’s approach is spot on. “Do your research so that you are working smart,” she says. “There is an abundance of information out there and you would be amazed how much the FinTech community keeps track of what is going on within it; so stay in the know.”
For the first half of her career, Brown worked as an aircraft maintenance officer where she was responsible for developing and executing maintenance support and aircraft sustainability project plans. After roughly three years in that position, she was competitively selected for a career broadening program that allowed her to become formally trained and work as a logistics officer.
“Considering that I earned my degree in public relations — a field completely the opposite of either of the industries I served in — and had zero knowledge of either aircraft maintenance or logistics industries before stepping into these roles in the Air Force, I take great pride in the accomplishments I was able to achieve throughout my military career,” Brown says.
Brown says the confidence that came with knowing she could lead teams and produce results with little to no prior industry knowledge, felt like both a blessing and a curse. “On the one hand, I was optimistic that I could enter any field I put my mind to and be able to produce results based on my passion for improving processes and implementing metrics from which to measure success,” she says. “But on the other hand, telling myself that I could do anything made me feel incredibly overwhelmed by choice, and I initially struggled with how to start the search to determine what my next career path would be.”
Brown applied to graduate school to get her MBA with the intent of gaining knowledge about the corporate business world that she could use to bridge the connection from the military to future civilian experience.
Her introductory management of information systems, or MIS, classes led her to discover a passion for leveraging technical systems as a way to Improve business processes, she says, “causing me to voluntarily take so many additional courses to quench my thirst for knowledge, that I ended up completing a dual degree MBA and Masters of Science in Management of Information Systems before it was all said and done.”
Brown was introduced to the Hiring Our Heroes Corporate Fellowship Program, where she focused her efforts on connecting with companies that aligned with her values and the job outlook she sought.
PayPal’s Owens says, “We have been a participant [in Hiring Our Heroes] for three years. We have partnered with the Private Public Partnership Office with the U.S. Army Reserve in an effort to provide meaningful employment opportunities to reservists and we are looking to develop additional partnerships to establish a stronger presence in the veteran, service member and military spouse community.”
Brown also participated in a Breakline Education Cohort, which provides educational resources, interview tips and focused opportunities to connect veterans, women and people of color to job opportunities in the tech industry. She was assigned with a mentor in the IT space through American Corporate Partners and she signed up for Veterati, another mentorship program, where she was able to reach out to veterans that had successfully transitioned in roles she aspired to and conducted dozens of hour-long informational interviews to learn about their transition successes and pitfalls to avoid.
Owens says it is important to remember that veterans bring to the table something that typical candidates do not have. “Do not lose sight of that in the interview process,” she says.
At the end of the interview period, Brown says she was fortunate enough to match with her first choice and completed her fellowship working with the Business Technology Office at PayPal.
“I was grateful for the opportunity to learn so much about the company and industry during this fellowship, and demonstrate to myself and my supervision that I absolutely was an asset to the team and the business, ultimately landing a job offer at the company following the fellowship, which I gladly accepted,” Brown says.
The Army missed its recruiting goal by about 15,000 new soldiers in 2022, coming up 25% short of its goal at a time when each of the services were struggling to meet their benchmarks. Military officials worry that all of the branches have had to reach deep into their pools of delayed entry applicants, a move that puts them behind in recruiting for the new year.
Military recruiters have leaned on tried-and-true factors to explain the challenges, including low unemployment and a dearth of applicants up to physical, educational and behavioral standards.
But the truth is, no one keeps detailed data on what’s stopping America’s youth from signing up. Experts and senior military leaders point to the perennial factors of competition from the private sector and a dwindling number of young Americans both qualified and interested in military service. But what they don’t have much information on is why that propensity is going down, and whether the country is undergoing an ideological shift in attitude toward military service.
One possibility that is increasingly resonating with veterans is that the military is too “woke.” Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., for example, is among a group of Republican senators who have repeatedly blamed recruiting problems on the Biden administration for trying to build a “woke Army.”
Thomas Spoehr, director of the Center for National Defense at The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, recently opined that wokeness is the “chief worry of grizzled American veterans today.”
“The largest threat they see by far to our current military is the weakening of its fabric by radical progressive (or ‘woke’) policies being imposed, not by a rising generation of slackers, but by the very leaders charged with ensuring their readiness,” he wrote. “Wokeness in the military is being imposed by elected and appointed leaders in the White House, Congress, and the Pentagon who have little understanding of the purpose, character, traditions, and requirements of the institution they are trying to change.”
Spoehr acknowledged that “direct ‘cause and effect’ studies on the impact of woke policies such as these do not exist,” but suggested that “common sense” dictates that it is having an effect on recruiting.
“Is anyone surprised that potential recruits — many of whom come from rural or poor areas of the country — don’t want to spend their time being lectured about white privilege?” he wrote.
In an interview with Fox News, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, a West Point graduate and Army officer who served in Germany during the Cold War, talked about the campaign he is launching, including TV ads and a website, to target what he calls “woke polices” directed toward the military.
“How can we ask young men and women who have decided to risk their lives for America, even die for America, to affirm that our country is inherently racist?” Pompeo wrote in a Sept. 28 opinion column for Fox. “How can we ask them to view their brothers and sisters in arms through the narrow prisms of race or gender? The clear and obvious answer is that we cannot — not without putting their lives at risk on the battlefield. A woke military is a weak military.”
But Defense Department leaders, while often apprehensive to address the intersection of politics and recruiting, have said they don’t see a connection anecdotally or statistically
“That whole ‘woke’ terminology has me a little perplexed,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass told Air Force Times Sept. 6. “I don’t know that I agree [with] and appreciate that term.
“I’ve said it before; I think perhaps we do need to wake up to what our society is about today. Perhaps we need to wake up to how we actually have more in common than not. Perhaps we need to wake up to the goodness of the diversity that America brings to the table. That diversity is not just singular to demographic diversity, but … it’s experiences and it’s cognitive diversity as well. I don’t subscribe to the ‘wokeness’ in the way that it’s discussed. I actually think that, yeah, we probably need to wake up to the goodness of what all airmen and what all people bring to the fight.”
In reality, service members spend hundreds of hours a year on mandatory training, covering everything from operational safety to financial responsibility and suicide and sexual assault prevention, with a tiny fraction of that focusing on diversity, equity and inclusion education.
But what seems to incense people is that the issue of racial disparity is discussed at all, not that it’s truly cutting into time spent on training.
When Marine Corps Reserve Col. Matthew F. Amidon, director of veterans and military families at the George W. Bush Institute, wrote a commentary urging veterans to help during the recruiting crisis by recommending military service to their kids and other young people, Military Times was inundated with a hundreds of emails from veterans saying they would do no such thing.
Their reasons varied, but most said wokeness is to blame. They accused the military of becoming so “political,” or such a “social experiment,” that even proud veterans wouldn’t recommend service.
“I’ll be blunt. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to join today’s armed forces and I discouraged both of my sons from considering serving,” wrote Peter Demas, who described himself as a third-generation veteran. “America’s military leaders have sold out the Services for their own advancement and reflect all the poorest qualities of civilian ‘leadership’ from whom they accepted thirty pieces of silver; instead of being the nation’s repository of integrity and moral courage, they have become more political than the political animals they grovel before.”
Survey data compiled by the Defense Department three times a year shows that propensity to serve has been dipping in exact years. A report from fall 2021 shows that just 9 percent of 16- to 24-year-old survey respondents affirmed that they were likely to be serving in the military “in the next few years,” down from highs of 13% in 2018 and 15% in 2013.
But the survey doesn’t drill down into the why, leaving open questions of whether that’s due to disinterest in the military, known factors that would prevent someone from joining, or a concrete aversion overall. So, while the Pentagon regularly takes the temperature of American youth and their likelihood to join up, they don’t regularly drill down into the “why.”
Still, a vocal group of veterans insist they know the answer.
“With a woke military, whose most senior officer is concerned about ‘white rage,’ searching for a tattle tale process to discover and discharge white ‘extremists,’ blaming it on toxic masculinity, discharging real warriors for not getting vaccinated, having a two-day stand down to discuss white extremism, the promotion and expansion of women in combat, lowering physical fitness standards to accommodate naturally weaker women, recruiting with social justice and diversity ads, stating we need more female and minority pilots, promotions based on the color of one’s skin or genitalia, lowering recruiting standards, blaming the military for 247 years of institutional racism, is not the military I was in for 26 years,” wrote Dale Papworth, who said he was a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel.
Papworth’s comments run counter to some evidence. For instance, the dearth of women and people of color in the upper ranks suggests that if there is a biased promotions system, it’s biased toward white men.
His comments resemble those made by Fox News host Tucker Carlson last year, in response to news reports that the Air Force had authorized a maternity flight suit.
“So, we’ve got new hairstyles and maternity flight suits,” Carlson said, also referring recently updated Army and Air Force hair regulations allowing braids and ponytails. “Pregnant women are going to fight our wars. It’s a mockery of the U.S. military.”
That statement was misinformed at best, and deliberately misleading at worst. Pregnant women in the military are not allowed to deploy, while pilots and aircrew are required to secure waivers from their doctors in order to do training flights.
That is without even mentioning that the maternity flight suit that so incensed Carlson is not just worn by aircrew onboard aircraft ― it’s a standard day-to-day office uniform in aviation units.
Reader feedback suggests that a military and veteran population that has traditionally leaned conservative is no longer supportive of an institution they find unrecognizable.
“My 19-year-old has expressed in no uncertain terms he does not want to serve in the U.S. military in any capacity,” wrote Adam, who asked to be identified by his first name only. “The politicization of our [government] institutions is creeping into the services now, and that is also having an effect. They may as well put out a sign that conservative or right of center Americans are not welcome. They just keep making it worse with their messaging. Boys want to be challenged and go on adventures, not be schooled on pronouns or the sins of their skin color. Girls want to beat boys and prove themselves.”
Since 2020, the services have ramped up their diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, following a lead from then-Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who in the wake of George Floyd’s murder called on the department to do better.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ran with that idea in the early weeks of the Biden administration, ordering a day-long stand down in every unit to discuss the threat of violent extremism, following years of proclamation from the FBI that right-wing domestic terrorism is on the rise.
But to some, these efforts were a direct attack on their worldview.
“Instead of training and preparing for combat, today’s military is too busy worrying about teaching proper pronouns, how to incorporate men who think they’re women and women who think they’re men into the barracks and showers,” wrote Ron Eslick, describing himself as a 1970s-era Navy submariner. “[Joint Chiefs Chairman] General Milley and Sec Def Austin are a disgrace to the uniform I once wore. They are nothing less than lap dogs to the current administration. What a shame that our country has now become a second rate threat in today’s world.”
And then came the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, one of nearly two dozen inoculations service members must receive in order to join and/or stay in the military, but one whose controversy pushed thousands to preternaturally end their careers.
“Covid vaccine mandates are undermining the military’s recruitment goals as well as harming overall morale,” wrote Harrison Wills. “Even if most troops complied with the mandate, how many did so only because their livelihoods were threatened? How many troops applied for exemptions but were denied? How many soldiers suffered and/or are suffering from side effects? How many people would consider joining the military but now won’t due to coercive mandates?”
A survey released this year of more than 8,600 military families found that troops are becoming less likely to recommend that their kids join up, potentially cutting into a traditionally reliable recruiting pool.
But it wasn’t because of politics, according to Shannon Razsadin, president and executive director of the Military Family Advisory Network, who put out the survey. It was because of quality of life.
“At the end of the day, families are having a hard time making ends meet, and that’s affecting their overall well-being,” she said in July. “We see the connection between well-being and loneliness, well-being and housing, well-being and food security. When you layer that on top of the fact that fewer people are likely to recommend military service, it paints a very clear picture of concern related to the future of the all-volunteer force.”
Notably, however, the survey doesn’t ask specific questions about politics.
Each of the services, along with DoD, are continuously researching the recruiting environment, including tweaking resources and messaging to draw in more prospects.
“The Department continues to review our recruiting programs to ensure current funding and policies align with the realities of today’s youth market. We recognize we must ensure the Services have the resources and support they need to successfully man the All-Volunteer Force,” Army Maj. Charlie Dietz, a Pentagon spokesman, told Military Times.
But they don’t always get it right. In 2018, the Army missed its recruiting goal by about 6,500, the result of an end-strength bump that opened up the doors for more accessions.
The service announced a host of initiatives to Improve its 2019 prospects, including a push into major metropolitan areas, with the feeling that their suburban/small-town Southeast well was starting to dry up.
“They did report some positive effects, but the fact that they’re not doing that now suggests that they were limited,” Bruce Orvis, a senior behavioral scientist at the federally funded think tank Rand Corp. who has done dozens of recruiting studies, told Military Times on Sept. 13.
It’s unlikely the Pentagon’s strategy for communicating about its initiatives will change.
“The communication methods on new policies continue to follow a long-standing standard and there have not been any discussions of framing the policies to appease someone that will mold it to meet their argument,” Dietz said.
So, while department officials don’t plan on getting into a direct argument with some of its detractors, they will continue to present their case in as straightforward and nonconfrontational a manner as possible.
“A policy that may increase diversity and inclusion makes us a better military because it brings new perspectives of decision making, operational decision making that we conduct, as well as better ideas, more unique perspectives and increased understanding of experiences which might actually make us smarter on the battlefield,” Dietz added. “We are a stronger military because of our diversity and because we represent all Americans, just like we defend all Americans.”
The chief master sergeant of the Air Force described the path forward differently.
“I feel like I’m a pretty conservative American, but … I’m a conservative American who values what everybody brings to the fight,” Bass said. “… We actually have to educate ourselves and help make ourselves more aware. Often, what you see in a two-second sound bite is not truth. When we read things like, ‘Hey, the military is focused more on pronouns,’ that could not be more inaccurate. We are not focused more on pronouns. We are focused on warfighting and ensuring that we’re able to defend the homeland. That’s what we’re focused on. But the quick two-second sound bite always seems pretty attractive.”
If a misunderstanding of policy is driving down propensity to serve, particularly in communities that have been more likely to join the military in the past, the service could take steps to diagnose that.
One would be to expand the DoD Youth Poll’s questions to drill down into why the respondents answered the way they did.
A task force is already dedicated to looking into some theories about why propensity to serve is down, Orvis said.
The trick will be determining which factors can be remedied without second and third-order effects. For instance, if tight regulations on past mental health history, or criminal history, are keeping the recruiting pool small, the services may be wary of risking continued issues once someone is in uniform.
“Because you don’t want to implement something nationally, on a more or less a permanent basis, if it turns out it’s going to bite you later on it, and you just don’t know,” he said.
The services will also have to redouble their efforts to explain to American youth what it means to serve in the military.
“We must also increase desire to serve in the Army by reconnecting to America through improved marketing and meeting America through interactive events across our nation, including a dedicated surge of Army leaders and soldiers telling their stories,” retired Gen. Paul Funk II, formerly head of Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Military Times last summer.” American youth simply don’t understand us, we owe it to them to ensure they understand all the benefits of service.
But in the meantime, with every report of lower recruiting numbers, military leaders will have to fight a perception of political indoctrination.
“The U.S. Army has fallen 15,000 soldiers short of its recruitment goal this year,” tweeted Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz. “Maybe we ought to stop imposing vaccine mandates, preferred pronouns, and woke education training on them. Just a thought.”
Is there truth to any of that? Maybe, but the research hasn’t been done. Until it is, the narrative belongs to the loudest voices.
Air Force Times senior reporter Rachel Cohen contributed to this report.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.
Last month, 13 former Secretaries of Defense and chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff collaborated on an unprecedented open letter warning of the dangers of increased political polarization and division within the ranks of the U.S. military. These senior leaders proposed a list of laudable actions that could make a difference. The letter lists 16 “core principles and best practices” for healthy civilian-military relations, critical steps to protect and preserve our system of civilian control over the military and prevent partisan division and polarization from undermining it. Unfortunately, these proposed plans are complicated and will take time to fully implement — time that is in short supply.
There is, however, one simple step that could immediately reduce the polarization and division that is impacting our military: the Defense Department should stop showing cable news programs on U.S. military bases and installations, at home and abroad.
From Pentagon offices to dining facilities at home and on overseas bases, in military hospitals and aboard warships, televisions are a near-ubiquitous presence throughout the U.S. military. They are found in spaces both large and small, viewed by a relative few people or by hundreds at a time. The Armed Forces Network, which has served radio and broadcast programming to members of the military and their families serving overseas since the 1940s, is a fixture of many installation TV sets and frequently broadcasts programming from Fox News and MSNBC, programming that has led to some complaints from viewers in the past.
There are several reasons why the ubiquity of cable news on military installations must come to an end beyond a handful of frustrated viewers. First, nowhere is the polarization and division that currently afflicts American civil society more evident than in the daily slugfests that constitute the majority of cable news programming. These programs prioritize partisanship and derisiveness over truthful discussion of the facts and have increasingly done so in exact years. Paid analysts and guests—including veterans and those still in uniform— frequently mislead viewers, and the disinformation continues when programming touches on the ongoing military operations of the U.S. and our allied partners. Fox News is the worst offender, with its star hosts actively promoting talking points of our adversaries. However, no matter what channel, there is no reason that military leaders should be facilitating the spread of partisanship and disinformation within the rank-and-file.
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Next, the military must make every effort to maintain its nonpartisan status. When every cable news network has become identified with partisan political positions, particularly with their intermixing of straight news with opinion commentary and punditry, the mere presence of these shows on a military television (rightly or wrongly) implies that the views on the screen are endorsed by those in the office. Unit cohesion may be weakened as service members divide by partisan lines, simply by what’s on the television during work hours, since it’s unlikely that those with opposing views – especially those junior in rank – will feel able to object now or in the future. This is concerning enough for most enlisted and officers, but the flaunting of open partisanship — even if unintended — is inexcusable for senior leadership and must end immediately.
The Defense Department and the military services routinely remind service members of the restrictions on political activities, particularly during election years; those principles should apply to the programs shown on military televisions, and computer screens, during working hours on military installations.
Finally, the television sets in offices and common areas are government resources paid for with taxpayer dollars. Taxpayers are paying for the base and post televisions, the subscription fees to the cable networks, and even the salaries of those who are watching the sets during their workday. There is no reason why taxpayers should be footing the bill for the spread of polarization and disinformation on military bases. The only reasonable exception to this prohibition on cable news would be for those offices, such as public affairs, where monitoring the news is part of their official duties. Even in those offices, care should be taken to avoid any type of perceived political bent. (For PA offices that don’t have a “quad screen” showing four channels at once, as I had in the Pentagon several years ago, they should regularly rotate the news stations they monitor throughout the day.)
For those who might express concerns over these restrictions and how they relate to the principles of free speech enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, there are limitations to their rights that members of the military agree to when they volunteer to serve. As the open letter from the former senior military leaders notes, “Members of the military accept limits on the public expression of their private views — limits that would be unconstitutional if imposed on other citizens. Military and civilian leaders must be diligent about keeping the military separate from partisan political activity.” Moderating the content consumed by military personnel on government equipment falls within that concern.
The fact remains that televisions on military installations do serve a morale and welfare purpose, especially in common areas, so they should not be disconnected entirely. But there are hundreds of channels that provide non-political programming, from sports to cooking shows to home remodeling. Service members won’t always agree on which sports to watch, or which teams to root for, but a disagreement over those doesn’t contribute to political divisiveness.
It’s important to note that the proposed set of restrictions is not intended to dictate which news channels service members or others on military installations watch or discourage them from staying abreast of important news. Service members, civilian employees, and their families are, of course, free to watch whatever news programs they choose during their off-duty hours and on non-government devices. However, the military should not use government resources in ways that may be contributing to the political polarization our senior-most leaders warned against.
For decades, service members have argued — and will continue to — over Alabama vs Georgia, Army-Navy, or baseball over soccer, or a host of other non-political, non-partisan topics. That is to be expected and accepted. But we shouldn’t accept tacitly endorsing partisan political views by the choice of cable news shown on taxpayer-funded televisions on our bases, stations, and posts.
David Lapan is a strategic communication and media relations consultant. His career in public service spans more than three decades, with service in the U.S. Departments of Defense and Homeland Security. Lapan is a retired Marine colonel, with more than 30 years of military service and 22 years of communications/public affairs experience at the highest levels of the Defense Department.
The United States armed forces is facing its biggest recruiting challenge since the military draft ended in July of 1973. For the next twenty years, the all-volunteer military was easily able to manage the country’s conflicts, such as the Persian Gulf war of 1991.
However, in the post-9/11 “War on Terror,” the all-volunteer force was inadequate. It was heavily supplemented by reservists and members of the National Guard. Part-time military forces comprised approximately 45% of the total forces who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as 18% of the casualties.
Today, recruitment throughout all military branches, especially among the National Guard, is not meeting quotas. With recruits dropping and retirements increasing, the National Guard lost an overall total of 7,500 service members this past year.
This will impact the various missions of the National Guard including military deployment overseas as well as an emergency response to natural disasters domestically.
According to Major General Rich Baldwin, the Army National Guard’s Chief of Staff, the recruiting woes are the “worst” he has experienced in the last two decades. He said that “if we don’t solve the recruiting and retention challenges we’re currently facing, we will see readiness issues related to strength begin to emerge within our units within the next year or two.” Along with the recruiting issues, the Army National Guard faced a 10% decline in reenlistment for veteran service members.
There are numerous reasons why recruiting and reenlistments are declining. Since the 9/11 attacks were 21 years ago, there is no longer an urgent “call to service.” In addition, the war in Afghanistan, the nation’s longest armed conflict, finally ended in 2021. With no ongoing war, some Americans are not compelled to serve in the military.
Another major factor is the needless requirement that all service members become vaccinated against COVID-19. Instead of following the advice of President Joe Biden who declared that “the pandemic is over,” our armed forces are maintaining the COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
Studies show that millions of Americans do not believe the vaccine is effective or beneficial, as approximately 32% of the country is not fully vaccinated. In this environment, a vaccine mandate is a powerful disincentive for many potential recruits. It could also serve as a major reason current service members are not re-enlisting.
14,000 current National Guard members are refusing to take the vaccine or seeking some type of exemption. Their final status is uncertain, as it has not been decided by U.S. Army leadership. If no exemptions are granted, the loss to the National Guard would be significant.
Some analysts believe that improving health and educational benefits would spur more enlistment. Others point to the need to enhance salaries and predict that recruitment will increase as the overall economy continues to decline.
The best way to Improve the situation is to eliminate the vaccine mandate and stop pursuing “woke” military objectives. Our military should not be promoting Critical Race Theory (CRT) and teaching about the dangers of white racism. In addition, the emphasis on the use of proper pronouns and hosting shows with drag queens is completely inappropriate.
The situation is so problematic that U.S. Representative Glenn Grothman (R-WI) has introduced a bill in Congress to prevent the Defense Department from “organizing, promoting, or hosting drag shows as a means of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”
According to the Defense Department, the mission of our military forces is “to deter war and ensure our nation’s security.” These goals are not accomplished by teaching controversial racial theories or promoting the correct type of pronoun usage or by featuring drag queens on military bases.
Grothman believes that “there is an overall effort being made to make the military more woke…and I think a woke military is probably a less productive military.” The Congressman is correct, except it is not “probably” detrimental, it is unquestionably harming our military.
Certainly, our foremost adversary, the communist Chinese, is not allowing their military officials to waste time training their soldiers on correct pronoun usage, CRT, or exposing them to drag queen shows.
It has become so ridiculous that in June, a drag queen event was planned at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany to promote “Gay Pride Month.” The drag queens were scheduled to read stories to the children of military service members in the library of the base. After much criticism, the ill-advised event was canceled.
In July, at the Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, a “Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Summer Festival” was held. Initially, a performance by drag queen “Harpy Daniels” was scheduled, although it was eventually canceled.
All these activities upset Grothman, who said he would “keep on the military to ensure they don’t degenerate into some politically correct, woke institution. If we had $100 million left over with nothing to do, we still shouldn’t spend it on this garbage because it weakens the military.”
Similar complaints were issued by U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) who sent a letter to the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall expressing his strenuous objections to the event scheduled at Ramstein Air Base. He noted, “As I hope you can agree, decisions over children and their bodies should be left to moms and dads serving our nation, not mediated through publicly funded propaganda on U.S. Air Force bases.”
Instead of focusing on important military goals, the current Defense Department leadership seems more intent on satisfying Democratic Party activists. On Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced that nine U.S. Army bases will be renamed because of ties to the confederacy. Other assets will be removed, such as a portrait of General Robert E. Lee that is hanging at West Point Academy.
These moves will cost $62.5 million and will not make our country any safer or solve the pressing recruitment crisis facing our military. It will only please the progressives who are steering our country in an extremely dangerous direction.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award-winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs Saturdays from Noon until 1 p.m. CT nationally on Real America's Voice TV Network & AmericasVoice.News and weekdays from 7-11 a.m. CT on WGSO 990-AM & Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance, and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and Crouere.net. For more information, email him at email@example.com
While President Biden's Secretary of the Army has defended its diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs this week as "important," several current and former members of the U.S. military, who have put their lives on the line to ensure America's security and defend its freedoms, are sounding the alarm over what they call a culture putting "wokeness" before training and combat effectiveness.
Those service members, some of whom served with Special Operations Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, are blaming that culture for its recruiting challenges, which have risen to a level unseen since it was transitioned to an all-volunteer force.
"The military is extremely woke," one service member told Fox News Digitial recently.
"I do perceive the Army leadership as woke, and probably the lower enlisted (they have been indoctrinated in school)," another service member said. "Equity-diversity is another way to divide and control the masses. It does nothing for the warfighter."
"We get criticized, frankly, sometimes for being ‘woke,'" Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at a Monday discussion with other military leaders on national security and the branch’s modernization efforts. "I'm not sure what ‘woke’ means. I think ‘woke’ means a lot of different things to different people."
She continued, "But, first of all, if ‘woke’ means we are not focused on warfighting, we are not focused on readiness, that doesn’t reflect what I see at installations all around the country or overseas when I go and visit."
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The service members, who remained anonymous so they could speak freely, almost universally shared a similar sentiment, with many noting that senior members who speak out on the issue risk their careers or retirement pensions.
"Merely questioning the goals or methods used to promote ‘Equity & Diversity’ is punished and that punishment is swift, harsh, and public," one service member said.
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"I 100% believe the military is woke. I see daily minorities, overweight people and women not adhering to military standards," another said. "Nobody corrects them due to the fear of being fired and labeled a racist or a sexist."
"I do think we do have a wide range of soldiers in our Army, and we've got to make them all feel included," Wormuth said Monday. "And that’s why a lot of our diversity, equity and inclusion programs are important."
Another service member pointed to the military's COVID-19 policies, noting the vaccine mandate has forced many members in good standing into difficult decisions.
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"Most of us who serve did so because we came from military families. Patriotism and American values are no longer appreciated or expected," one service member said. "Troops themselves are largely treated as expendable and they don't even pretend otherwise. Spending 15+ years in the military during wartime with multiple deployments risking their lives only to be tossed out like garbage. Losing the retirement they have worked years to earn because they didn't want to take an experimental vaccine for an illness that was mild for fit and healthy people."
The military has been facing a recruiting crisis, with the Army failing to meet its recruiting goals in 2022 and the Marines, Air Force and Navy all dipping deep into their pools of delayed entry program candidates to scratch by this year, putting them well behind the pace for meeting next year's goals.
"In the Army's most challenging recruiting year since the start of the all-volunteer force, we will only achieve 75% of our fiscal year '22 recruiting goal," Wormuth said in a statement after the numbers were publicly released.
While the military has faced several challenges in exact years, including restrictions to entering schools brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and a tight jobs market, many others have pinned the blame for the issue on a culture becoming less focused on winning the nation's wars.
"How can we ask young men and women who have decided to risk their lives for America, even die for America, to affirm that our country is inherently racist?" former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote for Fox News last month. "How can we ask them to view their brothers and sisters in arms through the narrow prisms of race or gender? The clear and obvious answer is that we cannot – not without putting their lives at risk on the battlefield. A woke military is a weak military. Unfortunately, woke and weak are exactly what our military is becoming under Biden’s leadership."
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Many of the service members reached by Fox News Digital expressed similar concerns, with some saying they would not encourage their children to join the military.
"I would not have my children join for the same reason they are in private schools vs. public schools," one service member said.
"I couldn’t allow my kids to join the military, and risk having them serve under commanders like I saw on deployments," another service member said, citing the failures of leadership witnessed in Afghanistan and Iraq.
"They’d be better off serving for one of our allies who are focused on defending their country and will come to our aid when our woke and unready force embarrasses itself," another said.
"Why would I have my kids join an institution who works every day to call them evil and diminish the contributions of their ancestors," said another.
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Service members also complained of an overly-political culture among the military's leadership, arguing it has hindered their ability to prepare the country for conflict.
"The DOD is absolutely politicized. No matter what party is in power. Generals have basically become politicians, and ‘yes men’ and will conform to whatever party is in power," one service member said.
"It seems like in the '90s, DOD was apolitical, but that doesn’t seem to be the case now. It seems like more and more leaders are more overtly supporting a political side, rather than their oath," another said.
Though most of the members expressed concern about the direction of the military, some shared optimism that the culture could be turned around.
"I still think the military has values that are salvageable," one service member said.
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Others stressed that the military needs to return its focus on the mission in order to turn things around.
"I prefer a military that was more concerned with the standards of the unit, rather than equity," a service member said, describing those initiatives as "disruptive towards the real training the military should focus on."
Fox News' Houston Keene contributed to this report.
Transgender women, who were born male, are still required to sign up for the Selective Service in the event of a military draft.
The policy, which has already been in effect for some time, gained new attention after the Selective Service System issued a reminder for men between the ages of 18 and 25 to register for the service. "Parents, if your son is an only son and the last male in your family to carry the family name, he is still required to register with SSS," the SSS said in a now-viral tweet sent on Friday.
Many of the comments reflected social commentary about changing views on gender, as well as remarks about the timing, as Russia's war in Ukraine escalates. "Parents, we may kill your son and end your bloodline and family name for the sake of defending some irrelevant pile of sand in some godforsaken corner of the globe that holds no worth whatsoever to you or your family," tweeted conservative commentator Matt Walsh, the man behind the What Is a Woman? documentary.
A transgender section on the SSS's website, to which its tweet links, stressed that all biological males are required to sign up for the draft, and this applies to citizens or immigrants of the United States who were born male and had their gender changed to female.
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For transgender men who were listed as female at the time of their birth, the SSS does not require them to register. People who have changed their gender to male are required to complete a Status Information Letter request form and provide a copy of their birth certificate to the SSS.
The Office of Personnel Management describes transgender people as those "whose gender identity and/or expression is different from the sex assigned to them at birth."
In January 2021, shortly after President Joe Biden took office, the president signed an executive order allowing for all citizens to serve in the military. A 2016 study requested by the Department of Defense found that enabling transgender people to serve openly in the military would only have "a minimal impact on military readiness and healthcare costs," according to a statement from the White House.
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"The study also concluded that open transgender service has had no significant impact on operational effectiveness or unit cohesion in foreign militaries," the statement read.
The Biden administration issued a statement in September that said it supports "the registration requirement for all citizens, which further ensures a military selective system that is fair and just.”
The Canadian Armed Forces plans to press ahead with the forced expulsion of dozens of unvaccinated troops despite a new order from defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre on Friday ending the military's blanket COVID-19 vaccine requirement.
In an interview with The Canadian Press, Eyre said that is because service members are expected to follow legal orders — and that a refusal by some troops to get their shots "raises questions about your suitability to serve in uniform."
"It's dangerous in the military to have legal orders disobeyed," he said. "It's a very slippery slope."
The comments came as Eyre released a highly anticipated new vaccine policy that effectively suspends his previous requirement for all Armed Forces members to be fully vaccinated or face disciplinary action.
Vaccines will no longer be required for all those serving in uniform, including as a prerequisite for joining the military, but will instead be based on the roles and responsibilities of individual service members.
The defence chief's new order includes a list of those who will still need two doses of a Health Canada-approved vaccine, with an emphasis on quick-response units such as special forces and the disaster assistance response team.
There are also requirements based on deployments alongside specific allies or organizations, including those working with NATO or the United Nations, as well as all sailors on warships operating overseas.
"We've got to remember that a ship out in the middle of the ocean doesn't have access to intensive medical care," Eyre said, adding that some allies such as the United States and Japan require military members to have vaccines.
Describing his order as an "interim policy," Eyre said he has ordered a review of the military's overall approach to vaccinations. At the same time, he reserved the right to implement it again should the pandemic take another turn.
"The medical advice is continuing to evolve," he said. "What is the bare minimum that's required to protect the force, to protect operational output, while at the same time respecting the individual decisions that members want to make."
The new policy follows months of pressure and questions about the military's vaccine mandate as a condition of employment, particularly after most other federal mandates were suspended.
The end of a vaccination requirement for international travellers prompted Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre last month to call for an end to what he described as the military's "discriminatory and unscientific vaccine mandate."
While the vast majority of service members bared their arms for shots, with 96 per cent having attested to being fully vaccinated, briefing notes prepared for Defence Minister Anita Anand in June revealed that more than 1,100 had not.
The Defence Department says about 300 service members have been told to hang up their uniforms, while another 100 have left voluntarily. Disciplinary proceedings, including warnings and marks on personal files, have been doled out to hundreds more.
A number of serving members have unsuccessfully challenged the mandate in court, while some groups and individuals opposed to vaccine mandates, pandemic lockdowns and the Liberal government used the requirement as a rallying point.
The Defence Department first reported that the mandate was being re-examined in June, and a draft copy of a revised vaccine policy obtained by the Ottawa Citizen in July suggested vaccine requirements for military personnel would be lifted.
The draft document, which officials said was not approved by Eyre, noted potential legal difficulties ahead to deal with people who were kicked out of the military because of the vaccine mandate, suggesting they could be forced to apply for re-enrolment.
The defence chief would not commit to any specific eligibility for re-enrolment, saying only that he would consider such requests on a case-by-case basis.
Eyre also defended the fact the military is among the last to drop its blanket requirement, noting it was among the first to take dramatic steps such as suspending non-essential activities at the start of the pandemic to protect the force should it be required in an emergency.
"So it would be the same on the far end as well," he said. "We would hold onto those measures a little bit longer."