There are some very telling statistics in a recent Gallup Military Perceptions 2008 poll that may affect recruiting over the next few years.
I am not surprised by the data because it mirrors research Air Force Public Affairs has seen over the last couple of years concerning those who would encourage young people to join the military services. The bottom line to the data in the Gallup survey is that parents and grandparents are extremely less likely these days to encourage their children or grandchildren to join a military service.
That's problematic because family support is critical to the success of a person serving in the military. Additionally, the pool of eligible 18-24 year-olds with a propensity to serve in the military has dwindled dramatically over the last few years. That means the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are competing hard for the same, small group of young adults who want to serve their country.
This trend didn't affect military recruiting in 2008 but it bares watching. If the economy gets stronger and parents and grandparents continue to downplay joining the military then we could have some recruiting challenges within a few years.
Meanwhile, this Gallup survey also revealed America's feelings about their military services. Americans viewed the Marine Corps as the most respected service with the Air Force placing a distant second in the survey.
Americans feel the Army is the service most critical to the nation's defense. The Air Force is second among most demographic groups surveyed with the Marine Corps either basically tied or in a very close third.
All the demographic groups identified the Air Force as the service in which they would most like to serve.
How Americans feel about their military services is extremely important to us. Their sons and daughters are handed tremendous challenges and great opportunities and we have to ensure they're well-trained, well-equipped and prepared for each.
Fortunately, we're still getting the best and the brightest and it's a great pleasure to serve with all of them.