| The results of this study show that senior leadership
and 18-24 year-olds have opposite opinions on their perceptions of the
military. This may be understandable because senior leaders have put a
majority of their lives into their work and for reasons beyond pay and
benefits have a strong dedication to their careers and lifestyle. This
young generation of 18-24 year olds becomes a group
of outsiders looking in when compared to senior leadership. The 18-24 year-old age group is disinterested in joining the military and perceives that the armed services would not make a good career. This group also had the strongest feelings that the military has lost touch with society. On the other hand, senior leadership feels the military is in touch with and has a strong link to society. The general public feels the same way.
The public affairs community can pursue a number of distinct, but related, strategies to help rebuild the link to society and possibly draw more interest to the military from the 18-24 year-old segment of the population. Education lies at the heart of the strategies. If the senior leadership's perceptions are as far removed from those of the 18-24 year-old segment's, as the pilot study suggests, steps must be taken to educate the leadership on this subject. As the key voices for the military, and as the decision makers for recruiting efforts, the senior leadership must be in synch with the public. In addition to educating senior leaders, all members of the military must understand they are representatives of the services at all times. People draw perceptions from their actions both on duty and off. Negative behavior by members of the military has a direct link to negative perceptions in the public's mind.
Public affairs must have the ability to accurately report the military's mission. Public trust can only be built when it believes that the military is honestly reporting its activities. "Good news" stories rarely draw the interest in the media
that "bad news" stories do, but even by openly admitting its faults, the military can build credibility.
On a daily basis the military out-performs the corporate world in the areas of taking care of its own, providing discipline, giving advanced career skills, and providing money for education. More positive coverage of these aspects would benefit the military both in the public eye and possibly in the minds of potential recruits.
All public affairs strategies must be undertaken with the 18-24 year-old demographic in mind. This group is the key resource for recruits into the military service, and must be reached in a positive manner if recruiting numbers are to climb. The research project may spawn the need for more research to be done on this age group. More specific research projects could be developed to study the perceptions and needs of different racial and economic segments of this population.
The theories of organizational communication talk about the importance of an organization having a strong culture. The military contains all elements defined by Byers (1997) as culture, but the need to “advertise” this culture exists. Showing America the traditions and pride within the military would be an excellent way to strengthen the knowledge of the military’s culture. Service members’ pride could be intensified by recognition and reward. Both these suggestions would show Americans the unique and exceptional military culture.
Organizational communication also talks about the importance of leadership within any association. Building communication skills is important to any leader who hopes to understand their employees. A leader who effectively communicates with their subordinates will have a more accurate understanding of the workers’ thoughts and perceptions.
According to Byers’ (1997) explanation of conflict within an organization, a conflict exists between the military and society. This conflict needs to be addressed and solved. It is apparent that the first step in resolving any conflict is to study the true problem within the conflict. Surveying the people involved and researching their true thoughts and beliefs can uncover this problem.