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As Military Struggles to Find Recruits, DelVal Pols Tout the Benefits of Service

David Galluch

When the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain 245 years ago, citizens rallied to form the first Continental Army led by Gen. George Washington.

Since then, many citizens have answered the call to serve in the military, and the benefits of that service can last a lifetime.

Today, however, the U.S. military is struggling to attract recruits. And the number of people in the key age demographic for enlistment who can meet minimum requirements is shrinking.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told Congress in April only 23 percent of young people ages 17 to 24 are qualified to serve, down 29 percent in recent years. And NBC News reported only 9 percent of those eligible would even consider joining, the lowest number since 2007. All branches are struggling to meet their recruitment goals.

“We recognize that we are in a very challenging recruiting environment, in competition with our fellow services and the private sector for the top talent we need to serve as the next generation of Navy leaders and warfighters,” said Navy Cmdr. Dave Benham, director of public affairs for the Navy Recruiting Command.

The Navy’s goals for fiscal year 2022 recruits are 33,400 active enlisted service members, 7,400 reserve enlisted, 2,468 active officers, and 1,350 reserve officers, he said.

An Army spokesperson said, “This is the most challenging recruiting market in the last 20 years. In FY22, Army recruiters are facing a tight labor market, a decrease in the propensity of the American population to serve, and a shrinking pool of qualified military applicants.”

In a 2021 survey, the Army found 75 percent of today’s youth (16 to 28 years old) know little to nothing about the U.S. Army. Its Enterprise Marketing Office (AEMO) has two new creative campaigns running now to generate awareness among young people and to address the common misperceptions about the Army lifestyle, as well as motivate receptive prospects.

Both the Army and the Navy are offering incentives to join.

But beyond the immediate satisfaction of meeting a challenge and serving one’s country, the benefits of joining the military can last a lifetime.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan

“I grew up in a military family, moving nearly a dozen times before I graduated high school,” said Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan (D-Chester/Berks), a third-generation veteran who served in the Air Force. “But when I was old enough, I decided to raise my right hand, too—in large part because my father and grandfather both instilled in me the value of serving our country in uniform.

“There’s a saying in my family to be of our’ highest, best use’ whatever that may hold. I know there are many young students and Americans out there wondering what their highest, best use is right now, and I hope they’ll consider a career in the military. It provided me the discipline, work ethic, and degree (thanks to ROTC) to pursue careers in business and non-profits after I separated from the service.

“Now, as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, I’m working incredibly hard to make sure our service members and their families are taken care of,” said Houlahan. “In fact, I’ve led efforts to improve pregnancy care for our servicewomen, provide paid family leave for all in uniform, increase pay, and more. To anyone out there considering serving in uniform, please know we will be stronger as a nation and a world should you choose to be part of the greatest military in history.”

State Rep. Craig Williams (R-Chadds Ford) went to Duke University on a Navy ROTC scholarship, then joined the Marines. Both his father and stepfather flew Cessna O-1 Birddogs as forward air controllers during the Vietnam War, so he grew up “steeped” in the lore of the military and living on Air Force bases.

He joined the military because “it was a family tradition of service to our country,” he told Delaware Valley Journal.

During Operation Desert Storm, Williams also flew 56 missions piloting F-18s (the same plane featured in the movie “Top Gun Maverick”) and “did the exact same mission, forward air controller, as my dads did in Vietnam. Williams was “racing around the desert at 200-feet marking targets for bombers up at altitude.”

Rep. Craig Williams

After the war, he became a flight instructor at Pensacola, went to law school under a military program, and became a judge advocate general (JAG). Williams served as head prosecutor at Camp Pendleton and deputy legal counsel to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the War on Terror. He was the head prosecutor for the Marine Corps Reserves.

Williams, who was decorated for valor, retired from the military as a colonel in 2015 after 28 years of service. He served as a prosecutor in Denver and then came to Philadelphia to join his wife, Jennifer Williams, as an Assistant U.S. Attorney.

“I never see it as helping me,” he said. “I see it as duty to country.” But he adds the things he learned have helped with his career path and “helped form who I am, this person steeped in service and duty to something bigger than oneself and I try to teach that to my children.”

“I think all these things are very sweet,” he said. “The 4th of July, Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, for people who have been in combat, are particularly significant events.”

“I’ve lost friends in the service. I’ve lost my best friend,” he said. “It’s hard for people who haven’t served to understand.”

Sometimes hearing the National Anthem brings a tear to his eye.

“We recognize on Memorial Day people who have given their lives for us. The 4th of July is the same,” he said.

Dave Galluch, a Republican running for Congress for the 5th District in Delaware County, also has a family history of serving in the armed forces. Galluch attended the Naval Academy. He was later selected for Navy Explosive Ordnance Disposal, a special operations job. He served in the Middle East and Somalia, where he was assigned to Seal Team Four.

“My family has a long history of military service,” Galluch said. “I’ve had relatives fight in every war in our nation’s history. They sacrificed for the things that are supposed to unite us all — the things that represent the best of who we are. I felt a weight to carry on their legacy and do my duty to my family and country.

“In the military, I saw the best our country has to offer and what we are capable of achieving when we realize we are stronger together,” said Galluch. “I learned how to lead, how to make tough decisions, and how to subordinate my own concerns to those of the men and women I was serving alongside.

Rep. Tracy Pennycuick

“I don’t care what else I do or accomplish in my life. Leading our nation’s special operators in harm’s way will always be what I’m most proud of. My experiences in the military are central to who I am, how I view this nation, and what leadership is all about to me,” said Galluch.

Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Gilbertsville) said, “I initially joined the military as an enlisted medic as a way to pay for college. I found that I loved the structure and discipline of the military, and ended up going back to college and earning my degree. I spent 26 years in the U.S. Army, and my military service taught me so many life lessons—never give up, never ask your soldiers to do anything you wouldn’t do, always take care of your soldiers first, mentor and guide your soldiers to achieve their goals….are just a few. The military set me up for success as it gave me the groundwork to be a leader.”

Pennycuick is running for the 24th District state Senate seat now held by Sen. Bob Mensch (R-Bucks/Montgomery/Berks), who is retiring.


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GIORDANO: Residency Requirement Keeps Good Cops Off Philly Beat

A new Emerson College poll found 40.7 percent of Pennsylvania Republicans say it is very important to them that a candidate has lived in Pennsylvania. Another 32 percent say it is somewhat important. The question of residency has been a major part of the criticism against Dr. Mehmet Oz’s campaign for the U.S. Senate, and it plays a significant role in attacks against Dave McCormick. Interestingly, the poll found voters age 18-29 had the greatest concern with a candidate’s residency.

I understand why voters might feel this way, given the honor of being our representative in Washington. But I still believe McCormick and maybe Oz can overcome this obstacle if they appear to be candidates who can win. I might be evaluating this through the lens of my opposition to residency requirements for police officers in places like Philadelphia.

I have always believed those requirements speak to a government intrusion into our lives that squelches the best and brightest from being attracted to a community. It certainly is a huge factor in stopping Philadelphia from attracting qualified people interested in becoming police officers in the city. In 2020, the Philadelphia City Council — reacting to the furor against police nationwide after the murder of George Floyd — restored a law that mandated a one-year residency requirement for cops prior to hiring.

I recently had the Philadelphia police captain in charge of recruiting new cops on my radio show, and he told me they had hundreds of potential candidates on their preliminary list. However, shortly after the end of the recruiting drive, only 14 people showed up for the first physical training session. Apparently, only 8 or 9 even finished the session. This pathetic situation is fueled by the #DefundThePolice movement in Philadelphia, media attacks on the police, etc. But many experts in the field cite the residency requirement as the main hurdle that has left the city without a large pool of qualified candidates.

Philadelphia City Councilor Cherelle Parker is one public figure who supports the residency requirement. She represents the council district that borders on mine, and she recently joined me on my radio show because she wants to recruit 300 more Philadelphia police officers that would solely be engaged in what she called “community policing” — cops that walk the beat.

She agrees communities across Philadelphia have reached a breaking point regarding homicides, carjacking, and overall violence. She wants police on the streets who see themselves as “guardians” rather than “warriors.”

Parker argues that, if we need it, there is a civil service requirement that would allow massive exceptions to the residency requirement. But she also said, “It makes good economic sense for the city of Philadelphia for people who are being paid by the city of Philadelphia to own a home in the city of Philadelphia.”

That may be true. But isn’t the responsibility of elected officials to make Philadelphia an attractive place where people want to live, rather than passing laws making it a place people who want city jobs are forced to live?

John McNesby, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, told me recently that under Police Commissioner Ramsay — and without the residency requirement — Philadelphia was able to recruit a great pool of great candidates from the military nationwide. It also recruited recent college graduates, including many from historically Black colleges,  to fulfill the goal of getting more educated and diverse candidates.

The evidence is clear: If Philadelphia is going to have the police force we need for public safety, we must do the things that make it a destination area to live and work, rather than a city that has to force its police to embrace it.

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