When I first considered joining the Army, I am reminded of the Army marketing slogan “Be All You Can Be.” I remember the jingle going through my head during the commercials of college football games, convincing me to “get an edge on life, in the Ar-r-r-my!” Remember those commercials back in the 1980’s? Do you think the Army could launch a marketing campaign around that slogan today?
What Does This Have to Do With National Security?
On the surface . . . nothing. In fact, you could just as easily argue that a Reverse Boot Camp entices service members to leave. Leaving the service actually degrades our military capability. Therefore, a program that better prepares service members for a new life negatively impacts our military readiness and national security.
Here’s the flaw with that argument: Nobody can stay in the military forever. At some point, EVERYONE transitions. EVERYONE has to start a new life after their military service. So, how can we justify the importance of the Reverse Boot Camp as a national security issue? Two reasons: the evolution of the demands of military service combined with the reliance of our security on a shrinking, all-volunteer force.
Unprecedented Demands on the Military
First, military service has become increasingly demanding on the overall welfare of the member and his or her family. Our nation has been engaged in combat operations for more than a decade. The frequency, duration, and intensity of exposure to combat and related conditions caused from multiple deployments, combined with the normal compression of military service, creates an unprecedented burden on the total wellness of the service member and his or her family. As we continue to blur the distinction between the garrison force and wartime service, we require a deliberate program of transition for the Veteran as they begin a new life beyond the military.
Do we know how many deployments are too many? Do we know when enough is enough? In our history, we have never asked our military to embark on a more challenging, complex strategic environment than the one they currently face. And we need the very best recruits to meet the demands of our nation.
Reliance on the All-Volunteer Force
Second, reliance on a shrinking, all-volunteer force in a rapidly changing global security environment requires our best-qualified citizens for military service. The military competes with universities and employers in the market for the most intellectually capable, physically fit, and patriotic candidates for military service. The constant media coverage on issues like suicide combined with the subsequent cost to society discourages enlistment in an increasingly competitive marketplace. To attract the best recruits, we need to change the conversation. A program that enables transitioning service members to excel in the civilian sector provides the testimonials to showcase the rewarding, lifelong benefits of military service. Achievement, optimum health, and opportunity post-military will attract recruits with the highest potential for the all-volunteer force.
Does Military Service Give Veterans an Edge Over Non-Veterans?
The 2015 Veteran Economic Opportunity Report states that 53% of Veterans will experience unemployment within the first 15 months of transition. Furthermore, Veterans experience 14% more underemployment than non-veterans. In terms of job turnover, nearly 2 out of every 3 Veterans will change jobs at least once in the first 2 years after transition. Does that sound to you like these heroes are “Being all they can be?” Does these statistics reflect an “edge on life?”
Let me put this another way . . . Given the frequency and duration of deployment; the fact that the burden on the force will continue to increase as our military structure (and that of our Allies) continues to shrink; the elevated statistics of mental illness, substance abuse, dissolution of the family, and suicide; and – lastly – the statistics that suggest a Veteran’s under-performance in the job market; does this sound like something you would want to do?
Success In Life After The Military Will Attract the Very Best to Join the Military
True, many of us would still say yes, because we love this country and we love the idea of serving. That’s great. And if that describes you, then we need to surround you with the best qualified candidates when you go into harms way. By adapting the Reverse Boot Camp program, we enable the very best opportunity for to build Veteran communities of successful leaders in our society. We can inspire the very best in our nation to volunteer for military service.
Ensuring we continue to have the most capable military in the world starts with the very best recruits. Therefore, a requirement of our recruiting strategy should showcase how military service is a stepping stone to a continued life of community, fulfillment, and empowerment. The Reverse Boot Camp will help our transitioning members to “Be all they can be” and obtain the decisive edge on life.
This is Part 3 of a 5 Part Series entitled “Why We Need a Reverse Boot Camp”. Tomorrow’s post will start to describe the upside before the Service Member leaves the military. The Reverse Boot Camp is an initiative sponsored by non-profit organizations across the United States designed to better prepare our service men and women for a healthy, empowered life after military service.