As Other Branches Fall Short, Marines Hit 100% of Recruitment Target

Consistent message is paying off, experts say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 19, 2023 11:26 AM CDT
Unlike Other Branches, Marines Meet Their Recruitment Target
A group of US Marine Corps recruits wait in line before jumping into the water during swim training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot pool, Wednesday, June 28, 2023, in Parris Island, SC.   (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

As other service branches fell short of their recruitment goals this year, the Marine Corps ended the recruitment year Sept. 30 having met 100% of its goal—with hundreds of contacts lined up for next year. The Army, Navy, and Air Force failed to attract enough recruits despite offering generous bonuses and relaxing standards, while the Marines kept standards firm and only offered bonuses for a few IT jobs, the New York Times reports. Experts say the mystique of joining "the few, the proud" has paid off, as has keeping a consistent message over decades while other service branches shifted strategy.

"The message they sell is, 'You should be so lucky to be one of us,'" Katherine Kuzminski, an expert in military personnel issues, tells the Times. "The Marine commercials market this vision of a disciplined corps who sleep on the ground, eat dirt, and fight dragons. For certain people, that has had a lasting appeal." When discussing enlistment bonuses earlier this year, Assistant Commandant Gen. Eric Smith said, "Your bonus is that you get to call yourself a Marine. That's your bonus," per the Marine Corps Times. Another factor, according to University of Maryland sociology professor David Segal, is that unlike in other branches, most Marines only serve one four-year enlistment.

"That means you have all these young, fit people who love the Marine Corps, going back to their neighborhoods and telling their story," Segal says. "It's a huge, informal recruiting force." The Army, Navy, and Air Force, meanwhile, fell short by a combined total of 25,000 recruits this year. A big part of the problem is that some 77% of young people are ineligible to serve because of issues including obesity and drug use, according to the Pentagon. (Obesity is also a growing problem among active duty service members.)

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