By Katie Lange
Defense Media Activity
Here at the Department of Defense, we’re about to launch a new initiative called This Is Your Military. It’s a push for the general public to get to know their service members a little better – a lot better, actually. There are many misconceptions about military life floating around, so we’d like to clear some of them up.
So if you start seeing #knowyourmil hashtags popping up on social media and you’re curious as to why, this can help explain it.
What, Exactly, Is the Initiative?
While the public knows the U.S. military is the most elite and lethal fighting force in the world, there’s innovation and resilience in serving, too, and it’s important for Americans to know why the military is relevant to them. This Is Your Military is an official DoD outreach initiative that looks to deepen America’s understanding of the military. The goal is to bridge the civilian-military divide.
There’s a Civilian-Military Divide?
Yes. The military has been an all-volunteer force for decades, with fewer than 1 percent of Americans currently serving. That has led to a natural disconnect.
People are having fewer direct interactions with service members. They’re not having direct conversations and getting to know the people who are serving. This initiative will expand awareness and deepen their understanding of those people and what they do.
“The wider that civilian-military divide grows, the more it threatens the viability and sustainability of that all-volunteer force that protects our nation,” said Amber Smith, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for outreach.
Smith was an Army OH-58D Kiowa Warrior helicopter pilot in the 101st Airborne Division who flew missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now that she’s transitioned back to civilian life, she knows the importance of both sides understanding each other.
The Civilian-Military Divide Has Led to Misconceptions:
The U.S. military is a force for good and positivity around the globe, but it’s not always characterized as such in the media and in Hollywood portrayals. Those are often perceptions of the military that the services themselves don’t have a voice in. And even if they’re a seemingly small misconception, they can be a big deal to people.
“We’ve seen with our own internal DoD research where people think everyone has to live on a military base. People think that they are lonely and not allowed to have a family. Some people think you can’t have a dog, or you have to leave them if you move, and you have to wear your uniform on the weekends or when you’re off duty,” Smith said.
READ MORE: Common Myths About Military Life
A lot of people are familiar with the negatives that come with service, but there are a lot of positives, too, like the work ethic, professionalism and family life. The DoD wants to highlight those.
“Jobs that exist in the civilian sector — most of them exist in the military, too. We have broadcast journalists. We have chefs. We have all sorts of career options outside of what most people think of the military,” Smith said.
Who Is This Initiative Aimed At?
While those who are being recruited into the military are mostly millennials at this point, the initiative is aimed at anyone who can influence someone’s perception of the military, and this includes parents. While older generations tend to have a closer connection to those who’ve served because of past wars, their knowledge of the military is what initially gets passed down to their children.
“They’re the ones talking to their kids about service to the nation, so they’re influencers, as well,” Smith said. “They should all be concerned about the future of the military and how it’s there to ensure safety and security for future generations.”
How Will This Initiative Change Perceptions?
Through social media and videos, the DoD is looking to start a conversation. We want to reach an audience we’re not used to talking to – those who don’t know the military basics – to tell service members’ stories, what their jobs are and why they chose to serve. It’s a way to get service members and civilians talking about how we’re all connected.
“The initiative isn’t about getting people to join,” Smith said. “We want people to get to know us.”
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