SAN DIEGO – The Marine Corps and other service branches are competing to attract the same 412,000 eligible Americans between the ages of 17 to 24, a Marine recruiting commander said Tuesday.
There are approximately 32.8 million Americans, part of Gen Z, but when looking at those who qualify for and want military service, that number quickly dwindles to 412,000, said Brig. Gen. Jason Morris, commander of Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, speaking at the West 2023 conference hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA.
There are a number of disqualifiers that account for bringing the number to 412,000, Morris said, including obesity, drug use and mental illness.
“We encourage people to get help, but once they get help, it’s in their records and we have to sort through that,” he said.
The number of Gen-Zers, or those who were born between 1997 and 2012, is approximately 7 million – less than that of millennials. This means the services, which have to compete against industry in addition to the other branches, have a smaller pool of people to attract, Morris said.
Bonuses and other incentives that the military offers, such as college assistance, are no longer unique to the services, with companies like Starbucks or Amazon offering similar benefits.
The Army, which offered a recruiting and shipping out bonus, still had trouble meeting goals in Fiscal Year 2022, suggesting that money is not enough of an incentive, Morris said.
The Marine Corps did meet its new recruit goal for FY 2022, Morris said, but it came at a cost. The start pool decreased by 23 percent, which means that recruiters now have to send new recruits out earlier.
“We don’t like that because we want to make sure that young men and women have time in what we call the delayed entry program, to work out, to study their knowledge with a recruiter, to get introduced to the military environment, to make sure that they have the best opportunity to graduate from recruit training and continue on with their path in the service,” Morris said.
The Marine Corps is turning to outside experts to look at other ways in order to meet recruiting goals in the future, USNI News previously reported.
The service is also working on retention, in addition to recruiting challenges, Morris said. The service met its retention goals for the past two years.
Talent Management 2030, as well as the new Training and Education 2030, lay out policies for Marine Corps efforts to keep Marines in the service for five to nine years, Morris said.
One of the ideas in Talent Management 2030 is lateral entry, on which the service is shifting its thoughts. Now the service is looking to bring back former Marines who joined industry after serving instead of trying to bring in people from industry who have never gone through Marine Corps training, Morris said.
This would solve one of the biggest concerns about lateral entry, which is that people from industry who had never served would not have the Marine core values.
As the service retains more Marines, the recruiting mission might go down, Morris said. But that percentage or two will be made up by the Marines that are retained and go on to be a captain or major, he said.
“So the service gets its return on investment,” Morris said.