Across the world, the large majority of recruits to state armed forces and non-state armed groups are male. The proportion of female personnel varies internationally; for example, it is approximately 3% in India, 10% in the UK, 13% in Sweden, 16% in the US, and 27% in South Africa.
While many states do not recruit women for ground close combat roles (i.e. roles which would require them to kill an opponent at close quarters), several have lifted this ban in recent years, including larger Western military powers such as France, the UK, and US.
Compared with male personnel and female civilians, female personnel face substantially higher risks of sexual harassment and sexual violence, according to British, Canadian, and US research.
Some states, including the UK, US and Canada have begun to recognise a right of transgender people to serve openly in their armed forces, although this development has met with political and cultural resistance.
State armed forces set minimum and maximum ages for recruitment. In practice, most military recruits are young adults; for example, in 2013 the average age of a United States Army soldier beginning initial training was 20.7 years.
Under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child means a person aged under 18.
The minimum age at which children may be recruited or conscripted under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court is 15. States which have ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC) may not conscript children at all, but may enlist children aged 16 or above provided that they are not used to participate directly in hostilities.
Historically, the use of children for military purposes has been widespread—see Children in the military—but has been in decline in the 21st century. According to Child Soldiers International, as of 2017 approximately two-thirds of states worldwide had committed to restrict military recruitment to adults from age 18, and at least 60 non-state armed groups had signed agreements to stop or reduce the use of children for military purposes. The organization reported that the so-called Straight 18 standard – the restriction of all military employment to adults – had been emerging as a global norm since 2001.
However, Child Soldiers International also reported in 2018 that at least 46 states were recruiting personnel below the age of 18. Most of these states were recruiting from age 17, including Australia, China, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the United States (US); approximately 20 were recruiting from age 16, including Brazil, Canada, and the United Kingdom (UK).
Most states which recruit children under the age of 18 have undertaken not to deploy them routinely on military operations, having ratified the OPAC treaty. According to the Secretary-General of the United Nations (UNSG), in 2016 14 states were still recruiting and using children in active armed conflicts: Afghanistan, Central African Republic, Colombia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Mali, Myanmar, Nigeria, Philippines, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Cross-cultural studies suggest that, in general, children and young people are drawn to military employment for similar reasons: war, economic motivation, education, family and friends, politics, and identity and psychosocial factors.
The hope of escaping socio-economic deprivation is one of the main reasons that young people are attracted to military employment. For example, after the US suspended conscription in 1973, 'the military disproportionately attracted African American men, men from lower-status socioeconomic backgrounds, men who had been in nonacademic high school programs, and men whose high school grades tended to be low'. As an indication of the socio-economic background of British Army personnel, in 2015 three-quarters of its youngest recruits had the literacy skills normally expected of an 11-year-old or younger, and 7% had a reading age of 5–7. The British Army's recruitment drive in 2017 targeted families with an average annual income of £10,000.
Recruitment for officers typically draws on upwardly-mobile young adults from age 18, and recruiters for these roles focus their resources on high-achieving schools and universities. (Canada is an exception, recruiting high-achieving children from age 16 for officer training.)
The process of attracting children and young people to military employment begins in their early years. In Germany, Israel, Poland, the UK, the US, and elsewhere, the armed forces visit schools frequently, including primary schools, to encourage children to enlist once they become old enough to do so. For example, a poster used by the German armed forces in schools reads: "After school you have the world at your feet, make it safer." ["Nach der Schule liegt dir die Welt zu Füßen, mach sie sicherer."] In the US, recruiters have right of access to all schools and to the contact details of students, and are encouraged to embed themselves into the school community. A former head of recruitment for the British Army, Colonel (latterly Brigadier) David Allfrey, explained the British approach in 2007:
"Our new model is about raising awareness, and that takes a ten-year span. It starts with a seven-year-old boy seeing a parachutist at an air show and thinking, 'That looks great.' From then the army is trying to build interest by drip, drip, drip."
Recruiters use action films and videogames to promote military employment. Scenes from Hollywood blockbusters (including Behind Enemy Lines and X-Men: First Class) have been spliced into military advertising in the US, for example. In the US and elsewhere, the armed forces commission bespoke videogames to present military life to children.
Many states operate military schools, cadet forces, and other military youth organisations. For example, Russia operates a system of military schools for children from age 10, where combat skills and weapons training are taught as part of the curriculum. The UK is one of many states that subsidise participation in cadet forces, where children from age 12 play out a stylised representation of military employment.
Armed forces commission recruitment advertising across a wide range of media, including television, radio, cinema, online including social media, the press, billboards, brochures and leaflets, and through merchandising.
Recruiters use civic space to promote their military organisation. Among the methods used are recruitment stalls in public spaces, air shows; military amusement parks, such as Patriot Park in Russia; national days, such as the Belgian national day and military parade; and annual armed forces days.
Recruitment marketing seeks to appeal to potential recruits in the following ways:
Typically, candidates for military employment apply online or at a recruitment centre.
Many eligibility criteria normally apply, which may be related to age, nationality, height and weight (body mass index), medical history, psychiatric history, illicit drug use, criminal record, literacy and numeracy, proof of identity, satisfactory references, and whether any tattoos are visible. A minimum standard of academic attainment may be required for entry, for certain technical roles, or for entry to train for a leadership position as a commissioned officer. Candidates who meet the criteria will normally also undergo a medical examination, a battery of questions to test aptitude, and tests of physical strength and stamina.
Depending on whether the application criteria are met, and depending also on which military units have vacancies for new recruits, candidates may or may not be offered a job in a certain role or roles. Candidates who accept a job offer then wait for their recruit training to begin. Either at or before the start of their training, candidates swear an oath of allegiance and/or sign their joining papers.
The period between the initial application to swearing the oath may be several weeks or months. During this time many candidates drop out. For example, in 2017 about 1 in 20 applicants to the British Army were eventually enlisted.
Most state armed forces that enlist minors (persons under the age of 18) are required by law to obtain the informed consent of one or both parents or legal guardians before their child's enlistment can take place. In practice, consent is indicated on a form, which parents/guardians sign.
Once enlistment has taken place, recruits are subject to military terms of service and begin their initial training.
Recruits enter a binding contract of service, which for full-time personnel typically requires a minimum period of service of several years, with the exception of a short discharge window, near the beginning of their service, allowing them to leave the armed force as of right. Part-time military employment, known as reserve service, allows a recruit to maintain a civilian job while training under military discipline for a minimum number of days per year. After leaving the armed forces, for a fixed period (between four and six years is normal in the UK and US, for example), former recruits may remain liable for compulsory return to full-time military employment in order to train or deploy on operations.
From the point of their enlistment/commissioning, personnel become subject to military law, which introduces offences not recognised by civilian courts, such as disobedience. Penalties range from a summary reprimand to imprisonment for several years following a court martial.
Perks of military service typically include adventurous training; subsidised accommodation, meals and travel; and a pension. Some armed forces also subsidise recruits' education before, during and/or after military service, subject to conditions such as an obligatory minimum period of formal military employment; examples are the St Jean military college in Canada, the Welbeck Defence Sixth Form College in the UK, and the GI Bill arrangements in the US.
Counter-recruitment refers to activity opposing military recruitment, or aspects of it. Among its forms are political advocacy, consciousness-raising, and direct action. The rationale for counter-recruitment activity may be based on any of the following reasons:
Armed forces spokespeople have defended the status quo by recourse to the following:
Armed forces have made effective use of short slogans to inspire young people to enlist, with themes ranging from personal development (particularly personal power), societal service, and patriotic duty. For example, as of 2017 current slogans included:
From the times of the British Raj, recruitment in India has been voluntary. Using Martial Race theory, the British recruited heavily from selected communities for service in the colonial army. The largest of the colonial military forces the British Indian Army of the British Raj until Military of India, was a volunteer army, raised from the native population with British officers. The Indian Army served both as a security force in India itself and, particularly during the World Wars, in other theaters. About 1.3 million men served in the First World War. During World War II, the British Indian Army would become the largest volunteer army in history, rising to over 2.5 million men in August 1945.
During both world wars and a period after the second, military service was mandatory for at least some of the British population. At other times, techniques similar to those outlined above have been used. The most prominent concern over the years has been the minimum age for recruitment, which has been 16 for many years. This has now been raised to 18 in relation to combat operations. In recent years, there have been various concerns over the techniques used in (especially) army recruitment in relation to the portrayal of such a career as an enjoyable adventure.
The American military has had recruiters since the time of the colonies in the 1700s. Today there are thousands of recruiting stations across the United States, serving the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force. Recruiting offices normally consist of 2–8 recruiters between the ranks of E-5 and E-7. When a potential applicant walks into a recruiting station his or her height and weight are checked and their background investigated. A finger print scan is conducted and a practice ASVAB exam is given to them. Applicants can not officially swear their enlistment oath in the recruiting office. This is conducted at a Military Entrance Processing Station – MEPS.
Prior to the outbreak of World War I, military recruitment in the US was conducted primarily by individual states. Upon entering the war, however, the federal government took an increased role.
The increased emphasis on a national effort was reflected in World War I recruitment methods. Peter A. Padilla and Mary Riege Laner define six basic appeals to these recruitment campaigns: patriotism, job/career/education, adventure/challenge, social status, travel, and miscellaneous. Between 1915 and 1918, 42% of all army recruitment posters were themed primarily by patriotism. And though other themes – such as adventure and greater social status – would play an increased role during World War II recruitment, appeals to serve one's country remained the dominant selling point.
In the aftermath of World War II military recruitment shifted significantly. With no war calling men and women to duty, the United States refocused its recruitment efforts to present the military as a career option, and as a means of achieving a higher education. A majority – 55% – of all recruitment posters would serve this end. And though peacetime would not last, factors such as the move to an all-volunteer military would ultimately keep career-oriented recruitment efforts in place. The Defense Department turned to television syndication as a recruiting aid from 1957-1960 with a filmed show, Country Style, USA.
On February 20, 1970, the President's Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force unanimously agreed that the United States would be best served by an all-volunteer military. In supporting this recommendation, the committee noted that recruitment efforts would have to be intensified, as new enlistees would need to be convinced rather than conscripted. Much like the post-World War II era, these new campaigns put a stronger emphasis on job opportunity. As such, the committee recommended "improved basic compensation and conditions of service, proficiency pay, and accelerated promotions for the highly skilled to make military career opportunities more attractive." These new directives were to be combined with "an intensive recruiting effort." Finalized in mid-1973, the recruitment of a "professional" military was met with success. In 1975 and 1976, military enlistments exceeded expectations, with over 365,000 men and women entering the military. Though this may, in part, have been the result of a lack of civilian jobs during the recession, it nevertheless stands to underline the ways in which recruiting efforts responded to the circumstances of the time.
Indeed, recommendations made by the President's Commission continue to work in present-day recruitment efforts. Understanding the need for greater individual incentive, the US military has re-packaged the benefits of the GI Bill. Though originally intended as compensation for service, the bill is now seen as a recruiting tool. Today, the GI Bill is "no longer a reward for service rendered, but an inducement to serve and has become a significant part of recruiter's pitches."
Recruitment can be conducted over the telephone with organized lists, through email campaigns and from face to face prospecting. While telephone prospecting is the most efficient, face to face prospecting is the most effective. Military recruiters often set up booths at amusement parks, sports stadiums and other attractions. In recent years social media has been more commonly used.
Manigart, Philippe. "Risks and Recruitment in Postmodern Armed Forces: The Case of Belgium." Armed Forces & Society, Jul 2005; vol. 31: pp. 559–582.
Dandeker, Christopher and Alan Strachan. "Soldier Recruitment to the British Army: a Spatial and Social Methodology for Analysis and Monitoring." Armed Forces & Society, Jan 1993; vol. 19: pp. 279–290.
Snyder, William P. "Officer Recruitment for the All-Volunteer Force: Trends and Prospects." Armed Forces & Society, Apr 1984; vol. 10: pp. 401–425.
Griffith, James. "Institutional Motives for Serving in the U.S. Army National Guard: Implications for Recruitment, Retention, and Readiness." Armed Forces & Society, Jan 2008; vol. 34: pp. 230–258.
Fitzgerald, John A. "Changing Patterns of Officer Recruitment at the U.S. Naval Academy." Armed Forces & Society, Oct 1981; vol. 8: pp. 111–128.
Eighmey, John. "Why Do Youth Enlist?: Identification of Underlying Themes." Armed Forces & Society, Jan 2006; vol. 32: pp. 307–328.Bajrak
The bajrak (pronounced or , meaning "banner" or "flag") was an Ottoman territorial unit, consisting of villages in mountainous frontier regions of the Balkans, from which military recruitment was based. It was introduced in the late 17th century and continued its use until the end of Ottoman rule in Rumelia. The bajrak included one or more clans. It was especially implemented in northern Albania and in parts of Kosovo (Sanjak of Prizren and Sanjak of Scutari), where in the 19th century these regions constituted the frontier with the Principality of Serbia and Principality of Montenegro. These sanjaks had notable communities of Gheg Albanians (Muslims and Catholics), Serbs and Slavic Muslims. The Albanians adopted the system into their clan structure, and bajraks endured during the Kingdom of Serbia (1882–1918) and People's Socialist Republic of Albania (1944–1992).Chachoengsao
Chachoengsao (Thai: ฉะเชิงเทรา, pronounced [t͡ɕʰàʔ.t͡ɕʰɤ̄ːŋ.sāw]) is a town (thesaban mueang) in central Thailand, capital of Chachoengsao Province. It is on the banks of the Bang Pakong River. It includes tambon Na Mueang and parts of Ban Mai, Bang Tin Pet, Wang Takhian, and Sothon of Mueang Chachoengsao District. In 2006, it had a population of 60,893.
The town was established in 1549 during the reign of King Maha Chakkrapat of Ayutthaya and originally was a centre for military recruitment. During the reign of King Maha Thammaracha, the kingdom was in a weak condition due to being defeated by the Burmese. Phraya Lawaek, the Khmer king, conscripted Thais from several towns including Chachoengsao to be in his work force.
Chachoengsao is sometimes referred to as "Paet Riu", a name derived from large fish locally caught in the past. Paet Riu literally means "eight cuts" or slices which refers to the way the fish was cooked and served as a local dish in Chachoengsao.The town is about 50 km east of Bangkok and can be accessed by train.Connecticut in the American Civil War
The New England state of Connecticut played an important role in the American Civil War, providing arms, equipment, technology, money, supplies, and manpower for the Union Army, as well as the Union Navy. Several Connecticut politicians played significant roles in the Federal government and helped shape its policies during the war and the subsequent Reconstruction.Counter-recruitment
Counter-recruitment refers to activity opposing military recruitment, in some or all of its forms. Among the methods used are research, consciousness-raising, political advocacy and direct action. Most such activity is a response to recruitment by state armed forces, but may also target intelligence agencies, private military companies, and non-state armed groups.Country Style, USA
Country Style, USA is a series of 15-minute radio and film programs produced by the US Army as a recruiting aid from 1957 to 1960 featuring top American country music artists. Each year 13 episodes were produced in Nashville, Tennessee, and distributed to local radio and TV stations. Among the hosts were Jody McCrea and Charlie Applewhite. Artists featured on the shows included Johnny Cash, Moon Mullican, and Jim Reeves.
The programs were produced by Owen Bradley and his brother Harold. They should not be confused with the 1950 DuMont TV series, Country Style.
The series was released on DVD by season in 2008.Egg Throwing Incident (1917)
The Egg Throwing Incident occurred on 29 November 1917 in Warwick, Queensland, Australia. An egg was thrown at the Australian Prime Minister Billy Hughes at the Warwick railway station during his campaign for the 1917 plebiscite on conscription. The egg was thrown by Patrick Michael Brosnan, possibly assisted by his brother Bartie Brosnan.Iowa in the American Civil War
The state of Iowa played a role during the American Civil War in providing food, supplies, and troops for the Union army, though its contributions were overshadowed by larger and more populated eastern states.Lord Kitchener Wants You
Lord Kitchener Wants You is a 1914 advertisement by Alfred Leete which was developed into a recruitment poster. It depicted Lord Kitchener, the British Secretary of State for War, below the words "WANTS YOU". Kitchener, wearing the cap of a British Field Marshal, stares and points at the viewer calling them to enlist in the British Army against the Central Powers. The image is considered one of the most iconic and enduring images of World War I. A hugely influential image and slogan, it has also inspired imitations in other countries, from the United States to the Soviet Union.Marine Corps Recruiting Command
The Marine Corps Recruiting Command is a command of the United States Marine Corps responsible for military recruitment of civilians into the Corps. In addition to finding volunteers to join, it is also responsible for preparing them for United States Marine Corps Recruit Training or Officer Candidates School.Military recruitment in Queensland in World War I
During World War I, extensive military recruitment took place in Queensland. Although many enlisted voluntarily, there was considerable pressure for the unwilling to enlist, including two unsuccessful attempts to introduce conscription in 1916 and 1917. Overall, more than 57,700 Queenslanders fought in World War I and over 10,000 of them died.Ministry of Defence and Military Production
The Egyptian Ministry of Defence and Military Production is the ministry responsible for the Egyptian Armed Forces organization and manages its affairs and maintains its facilities. It also handles the affairs of colleges and military recruitment, mobilization and management of veterans and military factories in Egypt through the Armed Forces Management and Administration Agency. The ministry is based in Cairo.Recruiting Service Ribbon
The Recruiting Service Ribbon is a military award of the United States Armed Forces which is issued by every branch of service with the exception of the United States Army (who instead issues the Recruiter Badge). The Recruiting Service Ribbon recognizes those military service members who have completed a successful tour as a military recruiter in one of the United States Military Recruiting Commands.Recruiting sergeant
A recruiting sergeant is a British or American soldier of the rank of sergeant who is tasked to enlist recruits. The term originated in the British army of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
The playwright George Farquhar served as an infantry officer, and the characters in his play The Recruiting Officer (1706) are drawn from life.
If any gentlemen soldiers, or others, have a mind to serve Her Majesty, and pull down the French king; if any prentices have severe masters, any children have unnatural parents; if any servants have too little wages, or any husband too much wife; let them repair to the noble Sergeant Kite, at the Sign of the Raven, in this good town of Shrewsbury, and they shall receive present relief and entertainment.
The unscrupulous methods used by some to trick the innocent have been the subject of several traditional songs composed by their victims as a warning to others, popular examples being the Irish traditional song Arthur McBride and the Scots Twa Recruiting Sergeants.
A recruit would be given the King's shilling as a mark of the contract made.
The term has passed into the English language to mean any set of circumstances which recruits or fails to recruit volunteers to the army. See Daily Telegraph headline
The CIA is al-Qaeda's best recruiting sergeantUSS Recruit (1917)
USS Recruit, also known as the Landship Recruit, was a wooden mockup of a dreadnought battleship constructed by the United States Navy in Manhattan in New York City, as a recruiting tool and training ship during the First World War. Commissioned as if it were a normal vessel of the U.S. Navy and manned by a crew of trainee sailors, Recruit was located in Union Square from 1917 until the end of the war. In 1920, with the reduced requirements for manning in the post-war Navy, Recruit was decommissioned and dismantled, having recruited 25,000 sailors into Navy service.Uniform Service Recruiter Badges (United States)
The Recruiter Badge is a decoration of the United States uniformed services that is awarded to personnel who have performed recruitment duties as service recruiters. The Recruiter Badge is issued by every branch of the U.S. uniform services except for the U.S. Marine Corps and the NOAA Commissioned Corps. With the exception of the U.S. Army, a Recruiting Service Ribbon is also awarded to those personnel who have completed successful tours as uniform service recruiters.United States Army Recruiting Command
The United States Army Recruiting Command (USAREC) mission is to recruit the enlisted, non-commissioned and officer candidates for service in the United States Army and Army Reserve. This process includes the recruiting, medical and psychological examination, induction, and administrative processing of potential service personnel.
The Recruiting Command is a field operating agency administratively responsible to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel. The Command employs more than 7200 Active and Reserve Component recruiters at more than 1,600 recruiting centers across the United States and overseas. The Command is guided in its operations by the United States Mobilization Doctrine.The Command is commanded by a Major General, and assisted by a Deputy Commanding General (Brigadier General), with five recruitment brigades and a number of support brigades in the Command.U.S. Army recruiters generally are DA selected for three-year assignments. These "detailed" recruiters return to their primary military occupational specialty after obligation as recruiters. Center Leaders and reserve recruiters are all career recruiters who stay within USAREC for the duration of their careers.
General Paul Gorman's (USA, ret.) in his institutional history of the U.S. Army, The Secret of Future Victories, credits George C. Marshall as the architect of the modern version of the current system for personnel allocation.United States Navy Recruiting Command
The United States Navy Recruiting Command (NRC or NAVCRUITCOM) is located in Millington, Tennessee. It aims to recruit both enlisted sailors and prospective commissioned officers for the United States Navy. NRC covers the entire United States with 26 Navy Recruiting Districts (NRDs) commanded by two Navy Recruiting Regions.As of 2018 Commander, Navy Recruiting Command is Rear Admiral Brendan R. McLane.NRC received the Meritorious Unit Commendation for the period October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008.Volunteer military
A volunteer military or all-volunteer military is one which derives its manpower from volunteers or as a voluntary occupation, rather than conscription or mandatory service. A country may offer attractive pay and benefits through military recruitment to attract potential recruits. Many countries with volunteer militaries reserve the right to renew conscription in the event of an emergency.
The Indian Army is the world's largest standing volunteer army. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, in 2010 the army had a strength of 1,129,900 active personnel and 960,000 reserve personnel
In recent decades, the trend among numerous countries has been to move from conscription to all-volunteer military forces. One significant example is in France, which has historically been the first to introduce modern conscription and whose model was followed by many other countries in Europe and elsewhere around the world.Young Scots for Independence
The Young Scots for Independence (YSI) formally known as the SNP Youth is the official youth wing of the Scottish National Party (SNP) representing the views of SNP members aged between 16 and 30.
It is important to note that while a lot of members in the YSI are students within the Scottish Higher Education System there is a unique organisation within the party to represent the views of students of all ages within the SNP known as the SNP Students.
The YSI maintains autonomy from the SNP and as such is entitled to formulate its own policies and run its own campaigns.
Notable policy success includes: Raising the age of military recruitment to 18, Sexual Consent Education, LGBTQI+ Inclusive Education and more recently the implementation of a school leavers toolkit.
The YSI is represented on the SNP National Executive Committee by the National Convener (currently Gavin Lundy) and is entitled to send delegates to party conferences as well as nominate members for internal positions within the party.