THE PENTAGON — The Army announced today it would end its year-long secret research program aimed at better communicating with current and future Generation Z soldiers.
The program, code-named “Hashtag,” included efforts to improve performance, encourage adherence to orders, and promote commitment to the nation. Sources close to the program, however, claimed it failed at all three.
Col. Jeffrey Addison with the Defense Language Institute was tasked to develop a common language the Army could use in with Hashtag, or # as most referred to it. Addison said the research demanded his complete immersion in Generation Z culture.
“OMG, it was cray-cray, for reals,” said Addison. “I was like, ‘You want me to work all day like a dog without anything to show for it? Hashtag AfghanistanAllOverAgain. I don’t think so. YOLO.’”
The program extended far beyond the Pentagon, to locations such as Fort Jackson, South Carolina, where the army considered amending its Drill and Ceremonies manual in support of a more Gen Z-friendly recruit training.
Staff Sgt. Nathan McDonald, a drill sergeant assigned to Fort Jackson who was part of the program, reported to Pentagon officers a lack of reaction when giving drill commands to Gen Z recruits.
“If I’m trying to march the Joes to chow,” said McDonald. “I can’t just say ‘Forward, MARCH’ anymore. Half of them won’t do a damn thing.”
“I have to say something like, ‘Fine … Don’t, FORWARD MARCH.’”
McDonald said it is then that recruits finally move, all while murmuring “hashtag” responses to one another that describe, in a mashup of words, everything from how ridiculous McDonald is to what will be served at the chow hall.
On the advertising front, the service put together a team of Silicon Valley executives to recommend compensation packages for officers and some enlisted. Sources claimed ad samples promised an open work environment with windows, a friendly and equal atmosphere, and competitive pay with a healthy work-life balance.
Donald Grimm, a former advertising executive who worked for the Marine Corps after the Korean War, was hired to assist with the program. However, Grimm claimed he was brought on board to help leadership get through the transition to a new generation, something he did for the Marine Corps in the 1980s.
“It’s all the same shit,” said Grimm. “Back in the 50s and 60s we’d just show them a star on a red flag, call them ‘pussies’ and they’d sign right up,” Grimm said.
“But then the Gen X kids showed up and we had to show them fire and dragons, chess pieces and lightning and shit. We showed a sample group a picture of Che Guevara once and the kids thought it was a t-shirt.”
While Grimm concedes that # ultimately failed, he said the silver lining was the fact the bulk of Generation Z would continue to live at home late into their twenties.
“We have time,” said Grimm. “Some of their parents are bound to kick them out eventually, and they’ll come running to us. They always do.”