The Department of Defense is looking at a new strategy to make Army and Marine Infantry more elite: get rid of the kids, and offer incentives for individuals over the age of 26.
A rapid departure from the long-utilized enlistment needs of World War II, the Pentagon’s strategy seeks to turn America’s two infantry branches into something mirroring the 75th Ranger Regiment.
The concept comes from former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ legacy group, known as the Pentagon’s Close Combat Lethality Task Force (CCLTF).
Tasked with ensuring the US has land dominance in the future against near-peer adversaries, the CCLTF has determined that older, more mature recruits with diverse educational backgrounds would prove to be a more suitable infantry force than young adults right out of high school.
To ensure a good pool of candidates, the task force suggested that the military find recruits in their mid-20s and offer them $250,000 bonuses and a $60,000-a-year salary.
The idea will be a tough sell for the US military as a whole, however, who will no doubt be unwilling to change their dated recruiting strategy.
“There is truth in this fact that we have not paid great attention to this idea of specially selecting people and incentivizing infantrymen and giving them the right skills,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr. “I think we can do a lot better in the Army … about getting the right people into these positions.”
Center for a New American Security senior fellow and 75th Ranger Regiment Alumni Chris Dougherty notes that while the idea has merit, the wars of the future will not be the light infantry-centric conflicts seen in the Global War on Terror.
“The question that I think the Army has got to grapple with is … is this a cost-effective use of Army dollars,” Dougherty said in an interview with Military.com. “I don’t think that we are headed into a period where…you are likely to see heavy investment in light infantry.”
CCLTF adviser Army Maj. Gen. d believes that the future is in lethal, highly mobile light infantry.
“The toughest nut to crack is policy, and the culture of neglect that close combat forces have endured literally since the inception of the Army 244 years ago,” Scales said. “The problem is, when you get into the Army’s sausage-making machine, the frictions begin to arise, and everybody comes up with a whole series of what-abouts and what-ifs.”
And that, according to Scales, is unlikely to change if something isn’t done soon.
“We always slap back to that machine-age World War II era model,” he said. “Our system of training most of the Army, except for infantry OSUT, is no different than it was when we built an eight-million-man Army in 1942 and 1943.”
Other concepts would allow the older recruits of the future to retire at half-pay when they serve 13 years, provided they spend those years in harsh environments such as Afghanistan.
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