An Open Letter

to the U.S. Military Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Dear Sirs:

I understand that you are having problems getting enough new recruits to join the ranks of the United States military services. Given the impending threat of enemy nations with larger armies amassing at our borders to invade our country and ravage our people, the shortage of young Americans willing to sign their lives over to you generals is probably the greatest threat to our nation's security since Alexander the Great.

I know that you have an awful lot to deal with yourselves, generals, being responsible as you are for the training of hundreds of thousands of our most impressionable citizens to use an assortment of high-tech instruments to kill people, so I thought you might need some help dealing with your recruiting problems. I've come up with a few ideas for you to look over. If you'd like to try them out, give me a call.

The first thing we need to do is define the problem. It seems that even with the U.S. economy not doing so well, young folks are choosing to take jobs in the private sector instead of signing up for a hitch with you.

There are a number of reasons that someone might choose a job with a private company over enlistment. First of all, those other jobs offer more money. Don't get me wrong, guys: patriotic fervor, shiny badges, and marching in place for hours on end are great. But kids these days want something they can put in the bank. 

Then there's the issue of lifestyle choice. Remember those crazy kids back in the Sixties that whined about personal freedom and all that? Well, it's their children that you're trying to recruit now, and let me tell you, all this Yankee doodle dandy jazz just doesn't impress them. Do you really expect them to line up to go work with a bunch of guys with bad haircuts, be on call for 24 hours a day, and follow the orders of some old guy just because he's got some fancy job title like Master Sergeant? No offense, but you sirs need to get out more often. 

There's another small advantage that non-military employment offers that puts your recruiters at a bit of a disadvantage. I know it sounds crazy, but job descriptions in the private sector usually don't include responsibilities such as shooting, stabbing, bombing, or otherwise killing people in rival organizations. Also, because of some nit-picky technicality, civilian employers aren't allowed to order their workers to engage in activities which are known to lead to death. Somehow, word has gotten out that your organization knowingly sends its employees into situations where there are people shooting guns, laying land mines, and doing other dangerous things. This is a serious image problem that I suggest you get your marketing people on as soon as possible.

I've gone ahead and done an in-depth analysis of the military's weaknesses as an employer in the eyes of the American public and come up with the following recommendations. Of course, it's up to you to decide whether to follow my advice. Just remember not to shoot the messenger, okay?


If the military is to compete with the private sector, it must be willing to adopt some of the more appealing aspects of civilian employment. You might want to think about incorporating more employee protections into the enlistment contract. A good place to start is more a comprehensive insurance plan. Each soldier should be provided with ample coverage for personal liability, in case of one of those incidents where a family gets cranky about a little "friendly fire" horseplay or some touchy foreigners start complaining about an innocent and unavoidable accident like the one with that ski gondola in Italy. You should also consider offering more complete medical and dental coverage, so that when your soldiers have their bodies ripped apart in an enemy attack they won't have to worry about a high deductible.

Health and Safety

Allow OSHA to inspect your facilities to ensure safe working conditions. They could make sure that accidents waiting to happen such as barrels of noxious chemicals, faulty equipment, loaded guns, and nuclear weapons could be disposed of properly before anyone got hurt. OSHA might also be willing to help you in the design of more ergonomic machine guns so that your soldiers could avoid carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Unionize the Military

A system for more equitable employee relations might also attract more new recruits. Perhaps the time has come to allow for labor organization in the military. The rank and file might be more agreeable if they were able to elect representatives to look out for their own best interests. Kids just out of high school would probably be a little less uneasy about signing up if they knew that they could go on strike in case of an unpopular war.

Target Your Advertising

I know that the Pentagon has already put out advertisements for new recruits, but it's obvious that they aren't working. Why? The ads are boring. They make the military sound like just another big business. It doesn't help that you show all of those so-called soldiers wearing clunky headphones and big nerdy life preservers. These commercials appeal to the kind of person who would otherwise be applying to a technical college for TV and VCR repair. Is that really the kind of image you want to project to foreign powers?

This isn't the 1950s. Most ordinary people know that the military is an awful place to work. Only the most highly motivated individuals will apply to work for an organization with a history of abusing the most basic human rights of its employees, so stop trying to convince Johnny Snowshovel to sign up. Instead, make a strong appeal to the military's traditional base of support: schoolyard bullies, the criminally insane, out-of-season deer hunters, civil war re-enactors, and John Wayne wanna-be gun enthusiasts. Go ahead and put the militia back in your military by telling the truth about the real fun of military life. Perhaps you could revamp your motto of the 1980s into something like "Kill All That You Can Kill, in the Army!"

Lower Enlistment Standards

I think it's a great idea that you fellas have about eliminating the requirement that recruits have a high school diploma. After all, you don't need to know nothin' about no grammar to pull no stinkin' trigger, right? The problem is that you don't take this idea far enough.

If you aren't going to require a high school diploma, why make all those kids wait until they're eighteen years old to sign up? After all, they're just going to spend that time sitting through all those boring classes that they won't need anyway. Don't wait until they come of age, enroll those kids now so that they can start earning money! Once the education requirements are taken away, the only thing that would keep someone from being a good soldier is an inability to hold up a heavy rifle. So, from now on, the military should accept anyone standing over 5 feet tall and weighing over 100 pounds. 

If you think about it, you'll see that the inclusion of children in the armed forces should improve military discipline as well. These kids wouldn't be able to smoke, drink, or go out to strip clubs at the end of their shifts, and if they don't follow orders, they can be sent to their barracks without supper.

Reform Public Education

For those short-sighted students who choose to stay in school and drain resources from our government's educational welfare system for as long as they can, offer a reformed curriculum with courses that will prepare them for a successful military career. These courses would include the following: Kicking Butt 101, Intro. to Following Orders Blindly, Environmental History -- Agent Orange and the Restoration of the Southeast Asian Savanna, and Home-Front Economics -- Military Spending and the New Mathematics.

Follow this advice, and soon you'll have more recruits than you ever dreamed of. In time, if the plan is implemented correctly, the entire nation will be marching to the beat of the military drum. Oh well, we can dream, can't we?

Your comrade in arms,

Irregular Jonathan

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