Visiting with rank-and-file troops Tuesday in Georgia, the U.S. Army’s top general had a young soldier dial up his father for a cellphone conversation in which he praised the man’s son for enlisting.
“You can be anything you want in the Army,” Army Chief of Staff James McConville told 25-year-old Spc. Benjamin Soares and his dad on the other end of the phone. “You can be all you can be.”
If McConville’s words sound familiar to the parents of the latest generation joining the military, they should. The Army is bringing back the “Be All You Can Be” slogan that dominated its recruiting advertisements for two decades starting in 1981.
A new ad campaign featuring the revived slogan was scheduled to roll out Wednesday. A nearly two-minute preview video for the campaign features soldiers jumping out of airplanes, working on helicopters, climbing obstacle courses and diving underwater. A voiceover says: “We bring out the best in the people who serve, because America calls for nothing less.”
The video ends with a sparse piano reprising the melody of the soaring jingle from the original “Be All You Can Be” ads that implored young Americans to “find your future in the Army.”
The trade publication Advertising Age once ranked “Be All You Can Be” among the 20 greatest ad campaigns of all time. In 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the wars that followed in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Army revamped its recruiting ads. Newer slogans included “Army of One” and “Army Strong.”
So why dust off “Be All You Can Be” after more than 20 years?
“Why wouldn’t you bring back success?” McConville told reporters during his trip Tuesday to Fort Stewart, the largest Army post east of the Mississippi River.
“The reason we’re bringing back ‘Be All You Can Be,’ I think it describes exactly what we want for parents and young men and women,” McConville said. He added: “I’m just like any other parent: I want my kids to have an opportunity to do great things in life, to have an impact, be part of something bigger than themselves, to have a purpose. And I don’t think there’s any better place than the Army.”
The new ad campaign comes as the Army tries to rebound from its worst recruiting year in decades. As U.S. military branches struggled to meet recruiting goals across the board, the Army fell 25% short of its goal of 60,000.
This year, the Army had set the ambitious goal of adding 65,000 new recruits, which Army Secretary Christine Wormuth has called a “stretch goal.”
The return of “Be All You Can Be” is just one aspect of a broader recruiting effort in which the Army is offering cash bonuses and accelerated promotions for young enlistees who exceed baseline requirements and successfully refer others to join.
McConville said he’s hopeful the new ad campaign will help inspire new recruits.
“We want to give everyone an opportunity to do one of the most important things they can in life,” the general said. “And I think they’ll look back on their service and look back on it proudly.”