The few, the proud . . . the few

The U.S. Marine Corps likely didn't intend to be so literal when it coined the recruiting tagline "The Few. The Proud. The Marines."

But, like their counterparts in the other military branches, Marine recruiters aren't finding as many young Americans eager to serve these days.

The paper reports the U.S. Army fell 25 percent short of its recruitment goal this year. It had planned to bring in 60,000 new recruits, but only 45,000 soldiers had enlisted as its fiscal year closed last week.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told the Associated Press that 2022 represents the force's most challenging recruiting year since the all-volunteer force was started five decades ago.

Specifically, she noted that if recruiting challenges persist, the Army may need to augment its active-duty forces with National Guard and Reserve units, if not trim its force structure altogether.

The Marines, meanwhile, usually enter each fiscal year with about 50 percent of the Corps' recruiting goal already locked in. This past FY, that number was down to 30 percent, the AP reports. For the Navy and Air Force, recruiting goals were at about 10 percent.

The Air Force was able to pull enough delayed-entry recruits to exactly meet its 2022 goal of 26,151 new airmen. But that's no long-term strategy.

The low recruitment numbers can be attributed to covid-19. In the past two years, recruiters couldn't visit schools, fairs, public events or youth organizations where they mine for new recruits. And military officials report competing with private industry in a tight labor market, despite increased enlistment bonuses.

Military estimates also say just 23 percent of young Americans can meet the fitness, educational and moral requirements required for service, the AP says. And that's with fitness standards already lowered to meet new DEI (diversity, equality and inclusion) rules.

And . . . . Decades of superpower status will lull a populace into sleep, while duty and honor have been relegated to antiquated concepts depicted on those few shows that target dads and granddads.

Reports of late regarding the nation's declining military capacity seem to suggest it's time to turn off the snooze and start waking up. Perhaps it will take another actual war to rouse us from our stupor. Let's hope not.

Peace through strength has proven an effective deterrent throughout history; presidents from Truman to Reagan used it to win the Cold War. Even founding father George Washington acknowledged its necessity.

But peace through strength requires able-bodied men and women willing to serve. One military type not long ago told us of his response any time he hears a young person complain he can't find a job: Kid, do I have a deal for you! Then he gives them the name of the nearest recruiter.