By Peter Slavin
Young people are different today and the Army is wrestling with how to integrate them into its ranks, senior leaders said Oct. 21 at the 2013 Annual Meeting and Exposition of the Association of the United States Army.
They live in a virtual world and they are texting and Facebooking, observed Sgt. Maj. of the Army Raymond Chandler III.
“We’ve got to pull them into the Army family and expose them to other ways to communicate beyond what they’re very comfortable with,” Chandler added. He called on unit leaders to spend personal time with young soldiers.
“We have to make that initial contact,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno, adding that it may have to be virtual.
Odierno noted that two years ago Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke to military leadership groups about how he’s had to change his recruiting methods with today’s young athletes. He had to learn how to text, Odierno explained. Then he had to learn how to use Twitter because that’s how he initially connected with them. Through this social media, Krzyzewski built personal relationships with these high school players.
“I think that’s the same thing that we have to do,” Odierno said. “We have to figure out how to do that.” He indicated that part of the answer is letting young soldiers understand that there are people that care. There are people who want to reach out to them.
Secretary of the Army John McHugh added that the Army probably overemphasized the privacy of single soldiers in recent years. He cited new housing which has allowed young soldiers to isolate themselves after duty hours.
“What we’re trying to do now,” he said, is “try to kind of back step to some extent while still respecting their privacy.”