Air Force Tries Hard Sell

The Air Force recruiting motto may be "Aim High," but recruits going through basic training have to crawl low too, reports CBS News National Security Correspondent David Martin.

If you join the military (even the high-tech Air Force) and you'll get yelled at and bossed around. Add a geeky haircut and it's not a life that appeals to many teenagers.

What did recruit Cedrick Parston's friends think about his going into the Air Force?

"They said I was crazy," Parston says.

Nicholas Bateman's friends said the same thing. "They thought I was kinda stupid...Because it was tough and all that."

For the first time since the 1970s, the Air Force is short on recruits. And for the first time in its history, it will begin spending money on television advertising.

But Sgt. Ron Hetzel, an Air Force training instructor, wonders whether kids can still be persuaded to volunteer for the military.

"Today's generation has had a lot of things handed to them," says Hetzel. "They've got the Net, they've got Nintendo, they've got cable TV. I don't think they realize the patriot side."

In case you think that's just the grousing of a crusty old sergeant, the recruits themselves will tell you kids today are different.

Recruit Joseph Schlereth says "Kids nowadays -- I mean we're not kids -- we're adults. But we're growing up differently."

Alicia Watkins, another Air Force recruit, says "We sit down and do remote control. Everything is done from a sitting position. No one wants to get up and take action."

A shortage of recruits very quickly translates into shortages of critical specialties like security forces -- the people who protect Air Force bases against terrorist attacks. Security forces are trained to do everything from handling bomb-sniffing dogs to storming a building held by terrorists.

And Capt. Ken Ohlson, an Air Force training instructor, says he's already having trouble turning out enough of them.

"It means that there's a bigger threat to our Air Force when we're out there, when we don't have enough cops to do the job," he says.

Air Force recruiting is expected to get worse, and it may take more than an advertising agency to figure out how to make enough young people want to join.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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