As branches of the United States military are offering sweeter enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses, they are simultaneously lowering standards. Experts say this practice “diminishes our readiness as a force” and “we will end up suffering horrific failure or a series of failures before the services are willing to recognize this trend and move against it.”
As recruitment numbers continue to suffer in the aftermath of the CCP virus, the United States Army is offering a historic $50,000 enlistment bonus to what they describe as “highly qualified” recruits who sign up for at least six years. The previous record was a $40,000 incentive for selecting infantry and up to $65,000 in student loan reimbursement for certain occupations was offered in 2019 during the Obama presidency.
While the U.S. military met recruitment goals for full-time service members for fiscal year 2021, recent data shows recruitment began to fall as the year came to a close. For October and November 2021, only the Marines met recruitment goals. However, that achievement appears to be the result of lowering the bar in a new push for diversity rather than a drive to maintain standards to obtain qualified candidates. In 2017, the Marine Corps’ faced criticism for having two-tiered fitness requirements for men and women because it creates a double standard and implies that female Marines are not as physically capable as men. However, in December 2021, the Marines boasted of how they in fiscal year 2021 “reached historic successes in diversity representation” in that greater than 35 percent of all officer candidates were diverse including 15.4 percent of female officer accessions, “the highest number of female officer accessions for the Marine Corps in any given fiscal year.”
The Marine Corps was not the only branch to lower standards to boost enlistment. The Navy lowered fitness standards in 2017, and again in 2021. In 2019, the Army lowered physical fitness standards, especially for women. While only seven percent of men failed the Army Combat Fitness Test, about 54 percent of women failed. To bridge the gender gap, the Army introduced plans in May 2021 to use different scoring systems for men and women as they compete for promotions. In June, the Air Force announced changes to their fitness test. Planks replaced pushups. Rather than running 1.5 miles, members can now walk a shorter course. Even dress codes are being softened. The Army’s dress codes (pdf) now allow women to wear earrings and certain colors of lipstick as long as it doesn’t clash with their uniform. The Air Force dress code now authorizes cosmetic tattooing on the scalp for men, hosiery for women, and transparent piercing spacers for everyone.
In addition to lowering standards, women are now being coddled and given special privileges to help them advance in elite programs, where the bar is traditionally set higher. On Jan 6, reports surfaced that the Air Force acknowledged lowering the “norms” in the Special Tactics training program to advance a female trainee who failed to meet the program’s rigorous standards. An anonymously published memo (pdf) described how Captain Morgan Mosby “became known for quitting and getting preferential treatment,” such as being “given the opportunity to train with a personal trainer of her choosing” and being “able to take weeks off of work without leave or repercussions and had the ability to meet with various senior leaders.” Mosby told other trainees she was “too good” for the community, and the reason why she repeatedly quit was because her efforts didn’t receive constant praise. In the midst of her preferential treatment, Mosby filed an Equal Opportunity complaint, alleging she was being bullied by the instructors.
In April 2021 John Venable wrote for the Heritage Foundation that “Air Force standards for flight training and promotions have been on a downward spiral since the Cold War ended in 1991” and that “the service is about to remove factors from its flight school candidate screening process because it wants to increase the diversity of its rated force. When that next real war comes,” Venable asserted, “the cumulative impact of declining Air Force standards will prove fatal.”
To Venable, the idea that the new woke culture decimating America’s education system and corporations will also destroy our military “is the sum of all the fears of folks who have been in the business for a while and understand how those standards have changed over time.
“Right now, it’s identity that the service seems to be looking for rather than qualifications, so if you meet a certain profile or expectation in their minds with regard to your ability to serve then you can be brought on to the service and rise up into ranks that would be respected in most circles of America right now,” Venable told The Epoch Times. “What is lost in that is that they are stepping over, in very large measure, folks who are more qualified to fill those billets.”
Venable is a Senior Research Fellow for Defense Policy, Center for National Defense, Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy. During his near 26-year career of flying fighter jets for the U.S. Air Force, he accumulated 4,400 total hours of flying time, of which approximately 3,300 hours were spent in F-16s. Venable also served two combat tours and ultimately became commander of the Thunderbirds.
While Venable finds it “distressing” that the Air Force lowered fitness standards to accommodate Capt. Mosby’s inability to meet them, he said “the other side is the thing the special ops community values more than anything else is your will to continue, that stamina, that perseverance, that determination that you will see a mission through no matter what.” He explained how when Navy Seals are going through the BUD/S training (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) there is a certain drop bell that has great significance.
“When you ring that bell and put your helmet under it that means you quit,” Venable explained, “and those people who quit that program are removed immediately and not asked to continue because no one in that community can have that kind of attitude where you’re willing to give up. This particular captain quit twice. The fact that the Air Force highly encouraged her to stay, and re-admitted her for a third time, is the worst of all of their failures in this process. The leadership is so bent on getting the right appearance in their service that they’re willing to sacrifice proven standards.”
To Venable, rewarding Mosbey’s inability to meet standards and her penchant for quitting with advancement stands in humiliating contrast to the “Herculean strength, will, and determination” of Air Force Tech. Sgt. John Chapman, who was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Donald Trump on Aug. 22 for sacrificing his own life to save those of his fellow soldiers.
“Now we’re willing to sacrifice the foundation that created people like Chapman in order to get the right look, the right gender, the right appearance in the courses. They’re forcing people out who will not get vaccinated, they’re on a hunt for white nationalists. The changing of the culture where LGBTQ is celebrated in one sense and promoted in another. When people who have been in the service for a long time see this, they are less likely to encourage their children to follow in their footsteps. That’s where you’re going to start seeing the culture in the Air Force, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps start to implode and that’s going to cause us to do things like offer $50,000 bonuses and describe them as ‘highly qualified’ in the process.”
According to Venable, “the reason why the vast majority of people come into any of the branches is because of their parents, the lineage of service.”
“Those parents have shown these children what the life is like inside and promoted it at the dinner table, talking about what it’s like to be a pilot and a special operator. That makes these young men and women want to serve,” Venable asserted.
To Venable, the type of people a $50,000 enlistment bonus will attract are those with little more than a high school diploma who support the idea that a “non-white, non-male person” is going “to be promoted faster and achieve more” because of their “appearance and gender.” They will not have the “tenacity and faculties” of those who came before them. “Those folks,” Venable said, “we won’t see again. When will we turn away from this?”
“My fear is that we will end up suffering horrific failure or a series of failures before the services are willing to recognize this trend and move against it. I hope we’re able to intervene before those tragedies start taking place but my history and how I’ve watched the services, it’s going to take those tragedies to occur before we start moving into a different direction.”
Incentives Versus Talent
Ex-Lt. Col. Matthew Lohmeier says “one of the chief means by which our defense department leaders try to incentivize people of various career fields to remain interested in military service is by throwing money at the problem.”
“That’s been true in our pilot community for the better part of a decade, and this is just more of the same,” Lohmeier told The Epoch Times. “Based on what I’m reading now about wanting to incentivize enlistment by throwing money at that problem is we’re just going to spend more of our taxpayer dollars trying to keep and get new talent. The question remains; Are you going to get more talent by spending more money on recruitment? The obvious answer is, not necessarily.”
From what Lohmeier has seen in the pilot community, money doesn’t necessarily incentivize people to stay who are already planning to leave. “If people are being turned off by what they’re seeing in the news, like the woke agenda within our armed forces, money isn’t going to help recruit those people,” Lohmeier explained. “Money is rather going to tip the scales for someone who is already on the fence about staying or on the fence about coming in.”
Lohmeier also described what he calls a “lose/lose situation for the Biden administration” as military leaders join the shift toward wokeism. For those who are conservative “and really reject the woke narratives of American history and race relations in this country,” this new woke culture in the military will “disincentivize” them from enlisting. “On the other hand, if you are left-leaning in your world political view and happen to buy in to the woke narrative, you’re disincentivized from military service because you’d rather be doing something else with your time than worrying about the country because it’s not worth defending or serving.”
Still, while Lohmeier said he doesn’t blame those who don’t want to serve “in a politicized military or police force,” he says “you can’t have your best people leaving these jobs or these career fields to pursue other fields.”
“Where does that leave us as a country if good people are driven away from service in our military?” Lohmeier asked rhetorically. “It isn’t money that’s going to incentivize them to serve. It’s the belief that the country’s worth serving and that they might be able to make a difference in the service rather than out. It doesn’t help that one of our recruitment videos for the Army is about a young woman who is raised by two moms. Who exactly does that appeal to in the American audience? What exactly is the goal? Compare that to recruitment videos of our enemies. China and Russia are dead serious about developing their lethality and capabilities and, by comparison, the United States looks as if it lacks seriousness.”
Still, in the midst of its recruitment challenges, the military could separate tens of thousands of service members for defying the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate. The Marine Corps has already separated more than 300, and the Air Force more than 20. While the Marine Corps has only approved two requests for religious accommodation from the mandate, the total number of unvaccinated service members is estimated to be around 30,000.
“On one hand, we’re throwing money at a problem to keep people’s interest in military service,” Lohmeier said. “Simultaneously, we are purging people into whom we’ve poured millions of taxpayers’ dollars to develop their talents, and we’re not just talking about young pilots. There are seasoned instructor pilots, some of whom belong to our nuclear enterprise, who have as individuals cost the American taxpayers millions of dollars alone. We’re willing to abandon them and their families and their experience and their own lethality in favor of new, young fresh talent that we’re going to pay more money for so we can keep them interested in service. That’s a paradox that doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s a waste of money. It’s a waste of talent and in all likelihood diminishes our readiness as a force.”
Lohmeier hopes the American people become more aware of the impact of the “woke” decisions being made by military leaders, of purging existing talent who chose to serve out of a desire to serve their country to replace them with people who join purely through monetary incentivization.
“It’s pretty perplexing, unless you believe as I do that there is a deliberate plan to weaken our U.S. military,” Lohmeier said. “I don’t think that appears to be a conspiracy theory anymore while it might have been a couple of years ago. It’s more and more apparent that our policy decisions and apparent missteps seem to be part of a larger plan to weaken the United States’ military influence on the world stage, all while our competitors increase their readiness and lethality. I don’t think that’s by accident. I think it’s deliberate. There’s no better way to bankrupt a country than to throw money at problems that can be fixed in other ways. This is one of those problems you don’t need to throw money at to fix.”
Frank Shirey of Williamson, Georgia, is terrified by the new trend toward wokeism in the military.
“It really scares me, the direction the military is taking, especially compared to the way it was when I was in,” Shirey told The Epoch Times.
Shirey joined the military right out of high school in 1976 and served two years in the Marine Reserves. On April 4, 1978, he joined the Navy and after 23 years and four months of service, Shirey retired on July 31, 1995.
“Back then, things were tougher, more detailed,” Shirey reflected. “It was more mission-oriented. It wasn’t so much about the individual but about the fighting force. The way they’re doing it now, they’re trying to develop people socially rather than with their skills and without a real mission in mind, the mission being to defend the country. Bonuses were originally used to recruit and retain people with exceptional skills who were doing exceptionally dangerous jobs. Now it seems they are using them to get people to go along with their terrible policies.”
Shirey said he maintains contact with friends who are still serving, and he said they too are disturbed by the new direction the military is taking.
“We started getting away from disciplinary things even at the end of my career,” he lamented, “but the simple things that most people think are silly have a reason behind them. People don’t shine their shoes anymore. It wasn’t so much about shining your shoes and looking good. It was an ‘attention to detail’ thing. We don’t have that anymore. There is no detail. Look at these silly, blueberry uniforms the Navy was wearing that made no logical sense whatsoever. We’re getting away from discipline and requiring discipline. We don’t paint our own ships anymore. You don’t see the crew out there painting the ship. There was a reason for those things besides saving money.”
Shirey also noted the culture shift that labels male strength, once considered an admirable part of a man’s role as a provider and protector, as “toxic masculinity.”
“Men just aren’t tough like they used to be and it’s society that’s doing it to them,” said Shirey, now married with a daughter and two granddaughters. “We still have the same gene makeup we’ve always had, the same DNA. But society has beaten everybody down to the point that men are afraid to be men anymore.”
The Epoch Times reached out to the head of Army Recruiting Command Major General Kevin Vereen and the Department of Defense for comment.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.