You can get money just about anywhere, after all.

[Originally posted at Vox Veterana on 05 OCT 07.]

That picture in the right column mocks me: why do I have my picture on this site when I don`t write anything? Of course, my own site mocks me in its entirety: stuff I wrote two months ago is still on the front page as of this writing. I wish I could say that I`ve been doing big important things, but the only accomplishment I can boast from the last few weeks is that I finally beat the main campaign to Neverwinter Nights.

I just finished up a length post on SigSpace about some of the new recruiting/enlistment incentives that the Guard has been pimping heavily, including their wacky new Active First recruiting program, which apparently is a weird hybrid deal where you go into the Active component for a few years and then transition automagically to a Guard unit for an as-yet undetermined further period of time. If anyone is interested in my thoughts on the matter, they can be found over here.

One issue I mentioned in passing but didn`t really address was the long-term consequences of emphasizing monetary incentives so heavily in our recruiting. I`ve never been particularly comfortable with this, mostly because I`m good at cost-benefit-analysis. As I have said before (here), you can`t pay me enough to do this--and they don`t.

Current Army marketing seems geared toward benefits: training, personal growth, and money. Especially money. This is fine and dandy--these are legitimate benefits of service. But once you get in, are they enough? I`m told that it gets pretty hot in the summer in Iraq, and rumor has it that people occasionally try to kill you in Afghanistan. College money that you may not ever live to spend is not terribly valuable.

I don`t really want my Humvee crewed by soldiers who are in it for the college money. I want guys who know what`s at stake, know the kind of people we`re up against, and are there because they would rather fight the jihad in their backyard than in ours.

To be fair, once you get in, the Army does its heavyhanded best to brainwash you with deeper values. As my drill sergeant put it, "You only thought you were joining for college money." Sometimes these stick. Sometimes they don`t.

I think we might build a better force if we were trying harder to appeal to people who already buy into those values. Can you fill the ranks of an army at war with altruists? No. But how much would it cost us to add "serve your country" to the message? After all, we`re competing for the same pool of candidates as that other force that slays dragons.

For what it`s worth, I think the new campaign is a step in the right direction. This video makes me want to enlist, and I`m already in.

I don`t think we`re in danger of becoming a mercenary army, as some critics have charged. But who is more likely to stay in uniform, keeping their experience and training in the force--someone who joined for the GI Bill, or someone who joined to serve?


[Full disclosure: I joined for the security clearance and the chance to beat down rioting college students. I stayed for the MREs.]