The US Army Is Getting Creative When It Comes to Recruitment

It's a challenging time for the military for a few reasons

U.S. Army soldier
American soldiers are seen during a high-intensity training session at the Nowa Deba training ground on May 06, 2023 in Nowa Deba, Poland.
Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Right now, it’s a challenging time to be a military recruiter in the United States. Earlier this year, PBS’s Ali Rogin reported that confidence in the military nationwide is lower than it’s been in years — and that, when it comes to its recruiting goals, the U.S. Army “is set to fall 15,000 recruits short this year.”

There are plenty of reasons for this — and plenty of debate on how best to rectify this. But for military recruiters looking to boost those numbers, there’s the more urgent need to, well, boost those numbers. All of which leads to scenes like those described in a recent NPR article about Army recruiters paying a visit to the Minnesota State Fair.

As described by reporters Tom Bowman and Lauren Hodges, the group of recruiters working at the fair took a variety of approaches, from enticing prospective recruits with the prospect of money for college to offering an array of physical challenges — something that fairgoers might find appealing, given the state fair’s penchant for absurdly decadent food.

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NPR’s reporting also features images of relatively young children given access to remote-controlled devices — something that feels a little more unsettling than, say, having a conversation with a young adult about enlisting in the Army.

Then again, using technology to appeal to prospective recruits isn’t exactly a new technique. America’s Army, a military-themed video game developed by the Army, was in use for 20 years before being shut down in 2022. And yes, if the idea of a video game as a recruiting device leaves you feeling a little unsteady, you’re not alone. Given some of the techniques on display in NPR’s dispatch from Minneapolis, it’s enough to leave you wondering where else recruiting might wind up.

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