How the Navy plans to recruit "coddled" kids

Navy experts dig into the military's tough time attracting the MySpace generation.

By Farhad Manjoo
September 29, 2007 2:11PM (UTC)
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Noah Shachtman, the master of Wired's Danger Room blog, and Entropic Memes both have cool posts about a presentation put together by some Navy experts regarding the difficulty of recruiting "millennials," Americans aged 17 to 24, to the armed forces. In the words of the presentation, the kids are not alright: They're "coddled," "narcissistic praise junkies" who "demand respect" though they lack experience, and who are so comfortable with technology that talking to them is like "dealing with a somewhat alien life force."

The presentation, which was delivered at the Annual Navy Workforce Research and Analysis Conference, also highlights how the Iraq war has affected youngsters' propensity to enlist. As highlighted by this slide in the presentation, three surveys show that young people have become "less patriotic" and "less likely to join the military" as a result of the war.


Much of the presentation has the whiff of an oldster's "kids today" rant, though it sounds like this is tongue in cheek. The PowerPoint ends with a note to adults in the Navy -- "Remember how the previous generation misunderstood you? Try not to do it to them" -- that suggests a genuine desire to understand and, thereby, better recruit young people to the military.

But it's funny how strange the Navy thinks young people today are, especially in their use of technology. "Teens are creating new forms of social behavior that blur the distinction between online and real-world interactions," the presentation says. Young people are "fiercely uninhibited" and perceive "all kinds of opportunities" in "their willingness to reveal themselves online." They "feel they are only one step away from fame."


And look at how the kids talk!

How should the Armed Forces deal with such people? The report is slight on these details. It does caution the Navy to expect "millennials" to blog about their experiences in the military after they've joined: "No matter what, Navy experiences will only be a Google search away," the presentation says.


Download the Navy presentation -- a PowerPoint file -- here.

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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