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Military personnel—especially Black women— spilled the tea about military life on Generation Z’s playground—TikTok—despite the organization’s endeavors to enlist this generation to combat one of its historically lowest recruitment turnouts.

A Wall Street Journal 2023 study found that the U.S. Army is 15,000 short of its expected 65,000 recruits and the Navy is 10,000 short of its target of 38,000. Only 9% of people ages 16 to 21 considered enlisting, which is down from 13 % during the pandemic. But to appeal to the younger crowd, the military attempted to go down the TikTok avenue only to find that military influencers weren’t exactly pushing others to join.

Numerous enlisted members across the platform share their experiences in the military, with many griping about the food, lack of sleep, disrespectful leadership, pay and its impact on their relationships.

For example, a TikToker named Melvina, a Black woman in the U.S. Army, addressed the negative aspects of joining the military in a video posted in 2022.

The aspects listed were terrible pay, leaders determining when one works, their lives based on regulations, toxic environment, family coming last, loneliness, physical, mental, and emotional exhaustion, depression restrictions, and divorce (due to the strain it puts on marriages)

She added that much envy, greed, hate and maliciousness go on in the military.

TikToker Ayana Kaliya mentioned similar points but addressed how hair regulations (regs) could be an issue for Black women enlisted or interested in registering.

“I do feel like they try to accommodate [Black women] as much as they can, but if you have natural hair, if you have relaxed hair, putting all that product in your hair just to get your hair in a ponytail or bun, that s—t is not healthy,” Ayana said. “We kind of have to rely more heavily on wigs and boxed braids, which with box braids they kind of increased how big your bun can be.”

Influencer India Michelle, who was in the military for six years, spilled the deets on being Black in the military, alleging Non-commissioned officers (NCOs) and other officers messed around with soldiers. 

She also confirmed racism existed in the military, which isn’t surprising considering there were around 68% of white active-duty members in the military and only 17% Black members, according to a 2022 survey by the U.S. Department of Defense.

Other Black women emphasized the need to be mentally strong in the military despite the hardships they endure (being away from families and divorce) and the things they witness.

“People in the military have to become mentally tough because you see a lot, you deal with a lot, you are gone a lot, you’re doing a lot. It’s a lot of stress put on a person,” TikToker “Armyprinncess” said in a 2021 post.

But many incentives accompany joining the military. Black Veteran and TikToker “Liifewiithe” encouraged girlies to join, highlighting the lifelong benefits.

She assured that the military wasn’t as bad as many painted it, claiming a person’s experience would determine their career.

“It sets you up for so much success in the outside world, and it’s so much that we don’t know once we get out that it will set us up,” she stated. “And the benefits, they’re amazing, like schooling. Everything is just amazing. It really sets you up for success whether you’re staying, whether you get out because your entire 20 years later, you still can do disability. You still get the same benefits.”

Many generations enlisted to guarantee a better life, but Gen Zers’ reasoning behind enlisting seemed more logical.

No doubt, a stressless life is what baby boomers and Gen X strived for when enlisting in the military. From 1946 to 1964, Boomers grew their families before their husbands were shipped out, taking advantage of the GI Bill, which promised benefits, decent pay, affordable housing, and good jobs. Gen Xers were all about work/life balance and having a job that didn’t push them to rip their hair out. Depending on the military sector, it was possible.

But according to Gen Zers on TikTok, enlisting in the military guaranteed their survival. With the threat of the recession and jobs barely paying a livable wage, Gen Zers grew worried that they wouldn’t advance in life or survive.

Gabrie MaBelle shared she thought she wouldn’t accomplish little by 21 but joined the army at 17 and has her college fees handled as she works towards her bachelor’s in biochemistry in a Sept. 3 TikTok post.

On June 11, “TheRealQueenKema” on TikTok admitted that fear of becoming a bum pushed her to join the army because it seemed more like a solid life plan than going straight to college and returning with no prospects.

“Finishing college, going back home and being nothing…I refuse to do it,” TheRealQueenKema said. “So, I’m just like, I got to do whatever it takes in order for me to be successful. I’m not the person that’s going to do any scamming. I’m not doing nothing. I’m a legit person. I live a legit life.”

She felt the army was her best option, stating it was harder to be a broke bum than in the military.

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