This piece from Business Insider contains both good and bad news on the military recruitment front.
First, the good news: The army is failing to meet its recruitment goals. Excellent! Fewer young Americans signing up to fight in the Forever War. Fewer young Americans coming home from that futile combat without their limbs or suffering from PTSD, the forever nightmare that arises from the Forever War.
Now, the bad news: Faced with an inability to sign as many recruits as they can, the army is thinking about focusing their efforts on kids as young as 12. That suggestion comes from the Department of the Army's assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs, Dr. E. Casey Wardynski: "We have to confront this question of, will we wait until they're 17, or will be start talking to them at age 12, 13, 14, 15, when they form the set of things they are thinking about doing with their life?"
It's not clear if Wardynski is a medical doctor or a doctor of philosophy. In either case, Wardynski should know that the part of the brain that enables a person to make careful decisions, the prefrontal cortex, does not fully develop until about the age of 25. The army is already asking people well under that age to make that momentous decision: whether to sign up for a job that is very likely to lead to serious, life-altering, injury—or death. Now they are thinking about making at least a preliminary approach to kids who are fully two decades away from reaching the level of brain development that would allow them to make that decision well.
The prefrontal cortex also plays a role in moderating social behavior. One nasty form of immoderate behavior is sexual abuse. In fiscal year 2012 alone, the Pentagon estimated 26,000 cases of sexual abuse. And the stories keep cropping up in the headlines with alarming regularity. Could one explanation for that be the enlistment of so many people who haven't yet reached the level of brain maturity that they need to avoid immoderate behavior?
So, how does the army propose to interact with these younger kids? That's easy: Meet them in the field of esports, online gaming. Creepy, but probably effective. What's next? Distributing free lunch to pre-kindergarten classes, and showing the kids some old John Wayne movies?
First in my class in Officer Candidate School. Late to the conclusion that our attitude toward the military is idolatrous.