Services Must Adapt to Newest Recruits
We Don’t Want You, Uncle Sam: Examining the Military Recruiting Crisis with Generation Z. Matthew Weiss. Night Vision Publishing. 240 pages. $14.99
By Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, U.S. Army retired
“In the end, the current status quo is not sustainable.” So ends Matthew Weiss’ book, We Don’t Want You, Uncle Sam: Examining the Military Recruiting Crisis with Generation Z, which should be required reading from the Joint Chiefs to squad leaders.
Weiss’ claim to being an expert in how the military should recruit from Generation Z—which includes those up to 26 years old—is that he is one of them. While some may bristle that this Marine Corps second lieutenant has proposed some profound changes to how the force is staffed, it is precisely for this reason that his proposals have merit.
Weiss has written an easy-to-read, well-premised and insightful book that does not just criticize current policies and procedures, but also makes cogent, succinct and sometimes controversial recommendations. Weiss’ work comes amid what is perhaps the worst recruiting crisis for the all-volunteer force in five decades. Most importantly, it arrives as military recruiting is on the precipice of becoming even more difficult given current demographic trends. We Don’t Want You, Uncle Sam is therefore relevant and timely.
The book’s main thesis is that the bureaucracy is too slow to adapt to how Generation Z thinks, acts and responds to incentives. It is laid out in four sections: how the military should recruit Generation Z; expectations that the generation has for the workplace and military environment; how larger societal changes affect military recruiting; and how the military can give back to society.
While each section is self-contained and readable, readers may disagree with the author’s recommendations. But, in the end, that is the great service that Weiss does with this book. Some will take umbrage at his recommendation to ease up on drug testing or change the health assessment standards. Others will disagree with his assessment that educational attainment may no longer be the indicator it once was, or that performance bonuses at the unit level are a good idea.
By the end of the book, each reader will have confronted their preconceived notions of what the military is and what is expected of its members.
In addition to recommending how the military can change to adapt to Generation Z, Weiss is clear in identifying ways they can adapt to the military.
For example, he clearly lays out that the military could be the greatest job-reskilling program in the world, with its wide array and diversity of specialties, something especially valuable to the younger generation.
Similarly, he makes a coherent argument that perhaps the best recruiters of Gen Z are members of Gen Z themselves, and that the military should allow enlisted personnel to directly communicate with recruits early in the process.
For those of us of a certain age, the book will also bring you up to speed on new terms such as “mil-tok” and “thirst traps,” as Weiss outlines some of the unique terms this new generation of current and prospective service members uses.
With war raging in Ukraine and Israel, and both societies under near-total mobilization, it is hard to fathom that our system has been highly engineered over the past 50 years to keep people out of the military rather than enabling them to join. Weiss’ book provides solid recommendations to change that.
Maj. Gen. John Ferrari, U.S. Army retired, is a nonresident senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C. He served for 32 years in the Army, including deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, and during Operation Desert Storm.
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‘Stolid’ Generals Don’t Garner Headlines
Commanding Professionalism: Simpson, Moore, and the Ninth US Army. William Stuart Nance. University Press of Kentucky. (An AUSA Title). 210 pages. $30
By Col. Kevin Farrell, U.S. Army retired
As living memory of the greatest of all conflicts fades, only the most famous personalities of World War II remain in popular consciousness. Generals such as George Patton Jr., Dwight Eisenhower and Douglas MacArthur remain familiar, thanks to their fame at the time, their prominent roles in shaping history and even the influence of Hollywood.
On the other hand, many senior officers, though successful and influential, remain little known. This is understandable given the sheer numbers involved: In the Northwest European Theater alone, Allied forces in the final year of the war comprised an astonishing three army groups of eight field armies with 91 divisions and 4.5 million soldiers. No wonder some outstanding leaders have been overlooked.
William Stuart Nance’s incisive new work, Commanding Professionalism: Simpson, Moore, and the Ninth US Army, highlights two of those overlooked leaders in Eisenhower’s Ninth U.S. Army. In contrast to the famous feuds and outsized personalities of Patton and British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery, and the parochialism of Gen. Omar Bradley, Nance showcases the quiet professionalism and teamwork of Lt. Gen. William Hood Simpson and Brig. Gen. James Moore, the commanding general and chief of staff of Ninth Army, respectively.
Neither a dual biography of Simpson and Moore nor an operational history of Ninth Army during World War II, Nance’s book explains how Ninth Army performed so well in what the author describes as “the toxic command climate of SHAEF,” or the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force. The key factor was the outstanding teamwork of Simpson and Moore.
The absence of drama and controversy in Ninth Army was remarkable considering the overall environment of SHAEF. Given that the army was late to the theater and shuttled between the American 12th Army Group under “hyper-partisan” Bradley and the British 21st Army Group commanded by the “polarizing” Montgomery, Nance argues that it was the consistent professionalism and humility of Simpson and Moore that made the difference. The officers leading Ninth Army “were not the flashy first choices of anyone,” yet in the words of Bradley, they led the army to be “uncommonly normal.”
Fifteen years apart from their graduations from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, Simpson had more operational experience (in the Philippines, the punitive expedition to Mexico and World War I) than Moore, but both officers were “by the book” professionals. Nance argues provocatively but convincingly that the American model of generalship favors “management over bold leaders” capable of leading armies that are “generally lavishly supported and equipped” in the modern period. This was precisely the leadership style of both officers.
Nance writes, “While flashy personalities such as Patton grab headlines and can be useful in battle, it is the stolid professionals managing the thousands of details that win wars. Simpson and Moore both proved to be the epitome of what a career officer should aspire to become—not ‘uncommonly normal,’ but rather ‘uncommonly professional.’ ”
Organized into five chapters plus an introduction and a chapter of conclusions, the research found in Commanding Professionalism is thorough. Mercifully, in this era of overly long monographs, Nance’s work is a concise account of the careers of two humble yet capable officers who made a significant contribution to the Allied victory in Europe during World War II.
Commanding Professionalism is recommended for anyone with an interest in the history of the U.S. Army in Northwest Europe in 1944–45 and leadership at the general officer level.
Col. Kevin Farrell, U.S. Army retired, is the former chief of military history at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York. He commanded a combined arms battalion in Iraq. His most recent book is The Military and the Monarchy: The Case and Career of the Duke of Cambridge in an Age of Reform. He holds a doctorate in history from Columbia University, New York.
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Hogan’s Heroic 400 Escaped German Trap
Task Force Hogan: The World War II Tank Battalion That Spearheaded the Liberation of Europe. William Hogan. HarperCollins Publishers. 320 pages. $32.50
By Col. Steve Patarcity, U.S. Army retired
As the march of time brings us closer to the centennial of the beginning of World War II, it is inevitable that we will see more stories about that conflict. Equally inevitable is the passing from living memory of service members who survived the war.
This makes it all the more important that those stories are captured and recorded for posterity and for our continued study of the profession of arms. William Hogan, a fourth-generation Army officer, does this in an unusual yet engrossing way in Task Force Hogan: The World War II Tank Battalion That Spearheaded the Liberation of Europe.
The book tells the story of the author’s father, Lt. Col. Samuel Hogan, who led the 3rd Battalion, 33rd Armored Regiment, of the 3rd Armored Division, as it drove across France, Belgium and Germany until the close of the war. Task Force Hogan achieved fame following an attempt to grab crossing sites over the Ourthe River in Belgium in December 1944. Strong and stubborn German defenses forced the unit into a defensive position on key terrain at the Belgian town of Marcouray. German counterattacks then isolated the battalion and trapped it, which rapidly depleted its ammunition, fuel and supplies.
Contacted by radio, Hogan was ordered to destroy his unit’s equipment and attempt to escape back to friendly lines. Their faces blackened by grease, the members of the battalion managed to reach the village of Soy, Belgium, a trek of about 10 miles from their position. Enduring significant hardship, over 400 soldiers made it out of the trap. They are now known as “Hogan’s 400.”
Hogan bases his account on what his father told him of the battalion’s actions and supplements this with interviews with other veterans, plus additional research into 3rd Armored Division historical records and other documentation. The preface to the story clearly informs the reader that what follows is not a verbatim record of what transpired, and in many cases is conjecture based on the author’s personal knowledge of his father, his own military experiences and what he believes was the commonly shared language and slang of soldiers at that time.
The approach makes it difficult for me to evaluate the work. When an author takes license to depict events and re-create dialogue, in some cases in the past, they have been proven inaccurate based on further research.
So, the question is, is Task Force Hogan worth reading?
Setting aside my prejudice as to Hogan’s method, and recognizing the book as a son’s tribute to a father who led his men well and accomplished his mission, this story is a tale well told.
Col. Steve Patarcity, U.S. Army retired, is a civilian strategic planner on the staff of the Office of the Chief of Army Reserve, the Pentagon. He retired in 2010 after 33 years of service in the active Army and the U.S. Army Reserve, which included military police and armor assignments in the U.S., Kuwait and Iraq.
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Division’s Story Highlights Early Years
The 10th Mountain Division: A History from World War II to 2005. Dennis Chapman. Schiffer Publishing. 320 pages. $39.99
By Timothy Heck
Writing division-level histories is a challenging task, made even more so when that division has been constituted, disaggregated, deactivated and reconstituted, and has changed names and roles multiple times. In The 10th Mountain Division: A History from World War II to 2005, Dennis Chapman, a former member of the division, attempts to do just that. He largely succeeds, and the book is, for any scholar of the unit, a valuable resource and starting point for more in-depth work on the division or its components.
Despite its subtitle, the book begins with the 10th Mountain Division’s World War I predecessor, the 10th Division. That division, formed as a result of American entry into the Great War (though it would not deploy prior to the Armistice of Nov. 11, 1918), was commanded by Maj. Gen. Leonard Wood, a Medal of Honor recipient and namesake of today’s Missouri-housed post.
Chapman spends the bulk of the book covering the division’s formation, employment and combat during World War II. He does an admirable job explaining the role the division played in doctrinal development, split-unit operations and the creation of a unique unit. Chapman covers the deployment of the 87th Mountain Infantry Regiment as part of Allied efforts to retake the Aleutian Islands, which provided the division both experience and lessons incorporated into later training and combat. Two chapters focus on combat in Italy, giving the reader an overview of how the division fared against German defenders in high-altitude combat.
Perhaps the most impressive theme in the book is the documentation and story of training that Chapman tells. Whether it is discussing the evolution of the division’s troops or the lessons learned in various operations and exercises, the book does not fall victim to the allure of combat writing at the expense of preparations. That balance continues forward from World War II through the training the unit conducted in Panama prior to Operation Just Cause and beyond.
However, this book is largely devoid of the personal touch. Individual soldiers are, for the most part, absent. Actions by units down to the company level are well described, but they lack personal or visceral reactions. Also, the book is somewhat lopsided in coverage. The division’s role in responding to Hurricane Andrew receives almost as much coverage as its early role in Afghanistan. For example, the large-scale Operation Anaconda in Afghanistan receives passing mention despite its significant impact on professional military education and training.
Chapman notes in his preface that the COVID-19 pandemic impacted his ability to conduct research, thus capping the book in 2005. The global war on terrorism consequently receives short shrift. The attacks of 9/11 could have served as a better end date for the history, allowing Chapman to write a second volume about the division during the war on terrorism.
Overall, though, Chapman’s immaculately detailed history of the 10th Mountain Division is a good example of how a division history can be written. The organization and mission of the unit, which has seen a variety of changes to its force structure, take center stage. Citations, images and maps abound, making the book an excellent addition to a reference shelf.
Chapman should be commended for the work done in bringing the division into focus.
Timothy Heck is a joint historian with the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joint History and Research Office, the Pentagon. Previously, he was an assistant professor at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York, and deputy editorial director of the Modern War Institute at West Point. He is the co-editor of On Contested Shores: The Evolving Role of Amphibious Operations in the History of Warfare and Armies in Retreat: Chaos, Cohesion, and Consequences.