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Military Branches Are Doing More to Recruit Women into Active Duty

Marines with Marine Combat Training Battalion (MCT), School of Infantry – West conducts combat maneuver drills on Camp Pendleton, Calif., Mar. 15, 2018. US Marine Corps Photo

CAPITOL HILL — Lawmakers Friday morning challenged the military personnel chiefs to redouble their efforts recruiting and retaining female service-members because not doing so means potentially missing out on selecting the best from half the nation’s talent pool.

The personnel chiefs from the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps appeared at a House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee hearing to discuss their recruiting and retention efforts during Fiscal Year 2019.

With a low national unemployment rate, hovering around four percent which most economists consider representative of full employment, Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), subcommittee chair, highlighted the challenge faced by the services.

“With the difficult recruiting and retention environment driven by a lessened overall propensity to serve, reduced pool of qualified candidates and a robust economy, the competition for recruits will be difficult and you will all be competing for the same pool,” Coffman said

Citing a Rand Corp. report, Rep. Nikki Tsongas (D-Mass.) said only 29 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 23 years-old meet the qualifications to serve in the military.

U.S. Marine Pfc. Kira Kozik, the first female Marine student to check in to the School of Infantry – West, stands in formation waiting for instruction on Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 6, 2018. This marks the first male-female integrated Marine Combat Training company on the West Coast. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

U.S. Marine Pfc. Kira Kozik, the first female Marine student to check in to the School of Infantry – West, stands in formation waiting for instruction on Camp Pendleton, Calif., March 6, 2018. US Marine Corps Photo

“Just over half of this group are women, however, less than 20 percent of today’s active duty force is comprised of women,” Tsongas said. “It is more important now than ever that we recruit from the entire population.”

As of February, of the 1.3 million active duty personnel, 213,851 were women, about 16 percent of the total force, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center.

To tackle this gender gap, Marine Corps recruiters are expanding their playbook to include sending representatives to talk with the coaches of female athletic teams, at both the high school and collegiate level, said Lt. Gen. Michael Rocco, the Marine Corps head of manpower.

Historically, the Marine Corps has reached out to the coaches of male athletic teams, but more recently, as the service seeks to increase the number of female recruits, more attention is being paid to women’s athletics, Rocco said.

“Where we’ll find people with the propensity to serve is through the athletic departments,” Rocco said.

Sailors stand watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet. U.S. Fleet Cyber Command (US Navy photo)

Sailors stand watch in the Fleet Operations Center at the headquarters of U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet. U.S. Fleet Cyber Command (US Navy photo)

All personnel chiefs stated cyber as being among their most sought-after skills. Vice Adm. Robert Burke, the Navy’s chief of personnel, concurred with Tsongas, and expanded on her statement saying the Navy’s research shows women earn 52 percent of technical degrees.

“That’s where the talent is,” Burke said. “We’re very aggressively going after them.”

The Navy prominently features female sailors in its new ad campaign, which launched during the Army-Navy football game in December, Burke said.

The ability to attract more women to the serve in the military starts with messaging, said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso, the Air Force chief of personnel. Advertising, both traditional television and print ads, along with using online help, but Grosso said women also need to see diverse leadership.

“I feel like it’s my personal responsibility to go events so women can see that you can progress, and there is a place for you,” Grosso said.

Rocco was asked about the Marine Corps ability to retain women, by Rep. Jackie Speer, (D-Calif.), the subcommittee ranking member. A year ago, the Marine Corps and Navy were rocked by the existence of photo sharing sites posting intimate images of female Marines and sailors without their consent. The Navy and Marine Corps strengthened the potential punishment for operating such sites, but critics say not enough has been done.

“We’ve opened up all MOS fields,” Rocco said.
“We’re making progress. It’s slow, but we’re making progress.”

  • muzzleloader

    Why? Why the push to recruit more women?

    • PolicyWonk

      Only 29% of potential male recruiting candidates are eligible to serve. The rest haven’t got sufficient education, are too obese (this is a major, national problem), use drugs, or have been in trouble with the law, or are disabled for some other reason. Also note, that birth rates in the USA have been declining for a long time – therefore the pool of candidates is much smaller than it was during the baby boom.

      Then you’ve got the problem of competition: take out those who are opposed to serving in the military for whatever reason, those who want to go to trade school or college, and those who opt to go to directly into the workforce.

      None of the above counts the bad news that doesn’t help the military recruit: massive acquisition failures; sailors drowning in their berths; the USAF punishing their pilots for reporting hypoxia problems in aircraft; insufficient training and maintenance; serious problems in the VA; and having a CiC that gets into childish urinating contests with nuclear armed nations – which hardly inspires confidence – and therefore for some means simply being a civilian is dangerous enough.

      Hence – you’ve got to find the resources somewhere, and the other half of the population is female.

      It either that, or we re-start the draft and start to require 2 years of military service for all eligible males and females without exception – or offer 3 years of national service for objectors, etc, as an alternative.

      • Ed L

        I like your last paragraph. Maybe they can offer an incentive. for every 2 years you served you get a free year of college including all fees.

      • ew_3

        Agree about restarting the draft. Boot camp is a great place to meet new friends and say good bye to Mommy. And find out guns are not dangerous things.
        Suggest though that people in the draft not be sent overseas. They should serve on our nations borders to defend us. No more hearing about being sent to fight some crazy Asian war.

      • DaSaint

        Agree with much of what you’ve stated. Also agree with the draft, as I think that it would also curb our politicians propensity to send troops overseas for everything, as more folks would be impacted – more folks that they know personally, as long as the deferments are kept to a minimum, and are longer as you proposed.

      • ADM64

        The statistic about only 29% of men being ineligible for recruitment is at best dubious and doesn’t really bear deep scrutiny. At worst, it would still constitute an enormous number. Given that in physical terms, the top 5% of women are equivalent to only the average man, the notion that there is some great untapped pool of Amazons waiting to be tapped is absurd. Equally, the military seems to have lost the idea of getting people into shape, something it once did quite well.

        Perhaps we’d have more men interested in military service if we rediscovered the service culture that a) made it different than the civilian world, b) ditched all the politically correct social engineering stuff, and c) had the integrity to stand by actual, demanding standards.

        The statemement about our CinC represents gratuitious nonsense; one might as well argue that his predecessor’s fecklessness gave us a more dangerous nuclear enemy, and rendered many of the sacrifices those who served pointless. Meanwhile, one of those nuclear-armed enemies has come to the table. We’ll see how it plays out.

        I have no problem reinstating the draft. However, if we had the full manpower of the nation available, and held the women to the male standards for fitness – which is what is required if we want equal performance and not merely equivalent effort or equivalent “fitness” – we’d have the same result that is found in every professional sport. We’d also have a very large part of the civilian population quickly exposed to the staggering amount of bureaucratic BS that currently characterizes much of the armed forces.

        Meanwhile, the thoroughly misogynistic, homophobic, largely uneducated, all-male Taliban, seemingly unaffected by PTSD or PMS or pregnancy, has fought us to a standstill over 15 years and is poised to win in Afghanistan. The “greatest military force since Rome” seems mostly a legend in its own mind. And let’s not start on a Navy that forgot manpower-watchstanding requirements in favor of optimal manning and stopped teaching its officers how to actually navigate.

        • PolicyWonk

          The 29% I used actually understates the problem, and that number comes from a DoD report I read a few years ago. This nation has a severe obesity epidemic, and I have a niece that wanted to enlist in the USCG who was turned down for being overweight. They told her to come back when she lost 30 lbs, (which she sadly decided was too much work). Talk to a recruiter – they’ll tell you about the problems they have making their numbers (just be ready to get your ear bent!).

          Note also not every job in the military requires brute strength – a lot of jobs require more brainpower than brawn, and women can fill those roles as well or better than men can.

          Its too bad you’re unable to understand the problems created for recruiting on the part of the Child-in-Chief, or why such bombastic BRAVO SIERRA might deter anyone from joining the military. People with brains don’t buy that garbage and certainly don’t seek to be ordered into combat by someone who’s too lazy to do their homework, or is desperate to get their many ethical lapses off the headlines. I’ve voted Republican for years – and voted for a Republican in this last election – but not for Trump. I considered him incompetent and have yet to see anything on his part to change that determination. No good conservative can possible tolerate the depth of incompetence imposed on this nation by this man, and I refuse to check my brains at the door.

          You assertion w/r/t to his predecessors “fecklessness” is BRAVO SIERRA, and simply mimics the fertilizer of the clown posse at InfoWars, Breitbart, or Fox. Kim Jong Un was nuclear before Obama got in there, and the history of that sorry state of affairs and fault lands squarely on the shoulders of his ultra-incompetent predecessor.

          Cheers.

      • JohnQTaxPayer66

        There are very few people who believe in the call to service and lowering standards or quality of candidates is not the answer. Nor is a draft. Liberals have spent decades to drawing a dotted line between the military and hate of conservatives through their wholly owned unionized indoctrination called public schools. This is where change needs to happen.

  • Ed L

    Daughter (SGT) just reenlisted in the Army and after being just a SGT for a year she is now screening for SSGT. Prior to reenlisting she got headhunted by a firm due to her IT skills. She told me if she get SSG then she will applied for Warrant Officer.

    • DaSaint

      Good for her! All the best! We need capable IT and cyber folks in the services. It’s the new domain that, like space, we need to be proficient in.

  • ADM64

    Given the enormous and well-documented physical differences between the sexes, the actual available pool of female talent – in terms of those fully equivalent to their male counterparts – is very small. Therefore, this notion that we are somehow missing out on the best by ignoring women simply doesn’t withstand critical analysis. The fact is that we could fill the armed forces with higher quality men without any effort. Meanwhile, despite 40 years of on-going separate, lower and double-standards in fitness, and every effort to find ways to make military service more appealing to women, and the liberal application of quotas (which, like all other forms of affirmative action guarantee mediocrity, not excellence), we’re still having this debate. Perhaps it’s time to face the obvious truth and proclaim the emperor naked.

    Our inability to face empirical truths in peacetime, despite all the rhetoric of “hard right over the easy wrong” does not augur well if we ever have go to war against an enemy with an actual navy.

    • Jon Tessler

      We are still having this debate, because people like you continue to argue that woman do not belong in the military. Maybe if people like you realize that horse has already left the barn, never to return, and simply “get over it”, people will stop talking about it.

      FYI, I served with female sailors during Desert Storm, and i would take most of them over male sailors any day of the week.