The U.S. Army is facing a recruitment crisis as reports emerge of disillusioned Generation Z soldiers taking to social media to voice their concerns about poor conditions while serving. TikTok has become an outlet for these soldiers to express their dissatisfaction, shedding light on issues such as low pay, unappetizing food, and questionable leadership.
Social media platforms are abuzz with posts from soldiers like Anthony Laster, who recently went viral with a video admonishing the Army. Laster, wearing his uniform, listed his grievances, including the lack of privacy, low pay, unappetizing food, disrespectful leadership, and lack of sleep. In another video, he humorously mentioned spending his days watching TikToks instead of fighting the Taliban.
Another soldier, Shemar Williams, also took to TikTok, listing his “top five reasons not to join the military.” Williams cited low pay, a lack of autonomy, sacrifices in family life, and the misconception about schooling benefits. His message was clear: joining the military for educational opportunities requires meeting stringent requirements.
The Army’s recruitment target of 65,000 soldiers by the end of 2023 faces a significant setback as they anticipate a shortage of 15,000 individuals. According to Pentagon data, only 9 percent of individuals aged 16 to 21 expressed interest in military service last year. These figures highlight the urgent need to address the concerns soldiers like Laster and Williams raised.
Amidst the recruitment crisis, the Army has significantly adjusted its messaging and policies. The Department of Defense has stepped back from its previous emphasis on social justice and diversity themes, which included controversial initiatives such as evading state transgender laws and implementing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion advisory committees. Additionally, changes in fitness requirements have been reversed.
The Department of Defense has explicitly clarified that it has never sanctioned the use of TikTok by soldiers, and various organizations have already prohibited its installation on government devices. The DoD is revising its mobile application security policy to forbid the installation of inappropriate applications on government devices explicitly. This action directly responds to concerns raised regarding soldiers using TikTok as a platform for expressing criticism.