Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What America Thinks of Us

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.

Monday, January 26, 2009

New to the Pentagon

I had the opportunity to speak today with Airmen who are new to the Pentagon. They all go through a course called HAF (Headquarters Air Force) Orientation. Air Force Public Affairs is a standard on the schedule to brief these folks. For many it's their first tour and first time in the Pentagon.

I like to tell them that this is my third tour at the Pentagon since 2000 and that it's really a great place to work. The biggest challenge really--because of the insane traffic-- is getting to work in the morning and getting home at night.
I told them today that they're here at a very important juncture in the history of the Air Force and our country. With a Presidential Administration change you just never know what's going to happen next as far as the priorities of the new President are concerned. I shared with them that I'm encouraged by President Obama's new web site--especially that it's interactive--but that on today's site the Administration staunchly supported air power with the following comment: "We must preserve our unparalleled air power capabilities to deter and defeat any conventional competitors, swiftly respond to crises across the globe, and support our ground forces."

The fact sheet on the President's site also states support for the C-17 cargo plane, unmanned aerial vehicles and for a new aerial refueling tanker. That's all good news for those of us who have been fighting the battles in the media about Air Force modernization.

I also told these officers and senior enlisted Airmen that they're here at the Pentagon because they are experts in their career fields. Truly, the Air Force needs their expertise now more than ever as we continue to ensure America's Air Force stays the most powerful air force on the planet.
The next couple of years should be interesting around here. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts with you in future posts. I also look forward to your comments.