This article originally appeared in Issue 56 By Daniel A. The Media Connection," Spring, the volunteer army--recruited through advertising and marketing programs like those described--has been to war. Although today's advertising programs may vary in message or detail, they still center on commercial marketing techniques.
In the aftermath of the Gulf War, activist organizations have scored some successes in persuading local school boards to review campus recruiting programs and provide access for other voices.
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Several school districts are working to regulate recruiter access to students, but there are legislative proposals pending which would penalize these same school districts for these restrictions. As other young men and women ponder their futures, the implications of using advertising techniques to sell military service should continue to be evaluated.
On October 23,two days before the invasion of Grenada, young men watching football all over the United States were interrupted by the tragic news of a surprise terrorist attack that killed U.
The same football game also featured another kind of interruption--numerous paid commercials for the military services--Army, Navy, and Air Force as well as the Marines.
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The ads shown that day, and others like them, were carefully targeted to appeal to the dreams, aspirations and desire for adventure of potential recruits.
These appeals are bolstered by a substantial investment in reserve officer training programs for youngsters as young as 14, and an array of scholarships, incentive programs and special offers that sell the military as a viable career choice not only for young men but women as well. Peacetime recruitment has always depended on a combination of incentives and images. But the ending of the draft and the institution of an all-volunteer Army combined with a Reagan-era military buildup has placed all recruiting eggs in the marketing basket.
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But military services have an advantage that purveyors of ordinary consumer products lack: They often come to young people with the authority and access provided by youngsters' community schools. In several states, school districts must give lists of their graduating seniors to recruiters.
As one anti-military activist puts it, "That gives them the chance to zero in on kids they want--the ones who scored well on the army's vocational tests.
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By the time a hypothetical high school senior's name is submitted, he--or she--has already been exposed to a number of possible contacts with the military. Advertisements in consumer media and specialized publications are only the first level of weaponry in the military's recruitment arsenal. A survey, for example, showed that it was administered in 80 percent of Philadelphia-area high schools and at least 50 percent of those in New York City. A more specialized military training ground, the military public school, has only penetrated a few communities in the South and Midwest.
Presented as a form of a magnet school or enriched curriculum, such schools provide military training combined with the normal curriculum, aided by government support for materials, textbooks and some instruction.
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In Cincinnati, Ohio, such a proposed academy was voted down after a bitter campaign. The level of participation in all these programs depends on the school district, but the military dollar is seen as a viable supplement to school systems faced with an eroding tax base, and cuts from federal and state educational funds--struggling to provide information on career options.
Creating the Mystique Pressure to create the volunteer army was building just as the population of year-old males decreased in the early s. Nevertheless, the recruiting slump of the late s was reversed by The effectiveness of military advertising and the strong recruitment network it supports deserves much of the credit.
Photographic imagery that sanctions the military status quo is easy to spot in any review of popular magazines, newspapers and recruitment materials. Appeals to members of racial and ethnic groups, who have fewer educational and employment options and thus find the military more attractive, are particularly evident.
Part of the "Be All You Can Be" campaign, it features three men in camouflage uniforms behind machine guns in a wooded area. A black soldier smiles at the camera from the foreground. The soldiers' Darth Vader-type helmets, based on a new issue that appeared after the Grenada invasion, add to the scene's visual impact. Army brochures focus on black soldiers' upper-level service jobs and usually picture them smiling.
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