October 20, 2010:
Two years of recession has been good for military recruiters. In the last year, not only were all recruiting quotas filled, but record high quality recruits were obtained (in terms of aptitude test scores and physical condition of applicants.) Moreover, more young men have a positive attitude towards the military. Three years ago, a record low 12 percent of military age young men said they would definitely consider joining the military. This year, that has gone to 17 percent and is still climbing. While the media and politicians have mauled the military over operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reality of what went on got back to male teenagers (via the web or from older friends who had joined.) The kids were impressed.
On the downside, there is a growing divide in the United States when it comes to how many recruits different regions provide. A disproportionate number of recruits come from southern and the Rocky Mountain states. The northeast, upper Midwest and west coast are much more difficult to recruit from, and the recruits are not as good (less education, overweight, bad attitudes).
Recruiters have the hardest time in urban areas. Five years ago, the Department of Defense concluded that urban high schools were the source of most problems. Not because leftist teachers in some of those schools trying to keep recruiters out, but because so many potential recruits have to be turned down because of the poor education they have received in those schools. While only a fifth of Americans live outside cities and suburbs, nearly half of the qualified recruits come from these rural areas. What's strange about all this is that the rural areas spend much less, per pupil, on education, but get much better results. Part of this can be attributed to differences in cost of living, but a lot of it has to do with simply getting more done with less. Per capita, young people in rural areas are over 20 percent more likely to join the army, than those of the same age in urban areas.
The rural recruits are also a lot easier to train, and generally make better soldiers. The urban recruits often have a bad attitude, as well as a difficult time getting along with others, and following instructions. The urban schools deserve some of the blame for this, while rural schools tend to be far more orderly, and put more emphasis on civic responsibility. Many of the urban recruits are aware of these problems, and joined the service to learn useful (for getting a job) social skills. Those skills are more often found among rural recruits because out in the boondocks, people are more involved with local government, and more involved in general. This has been noted in urban neighborhoods, and for decades, many urban parents have sought to send their kids, to live with kin in the country to get the child away from the bad influences of urban life.
Over the last decade, there's been a movement back to the rural areas. Urban areas may be more exciting, and offer more employment opportunities, but they are a tough place to raise kids, or find suitable recruits for the military.