In 1917, as America entered World War I, U.S. Army General “Black Jack” Pershing had little interest in taking the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) with him to France. Although his sentiments were eventually overruled, he prioritized giving equipment and supplies to the U.S. Army, leaving the USMC without any “modern” helmets. Not wanting to see our brave Marines go to war without needed equipment, the Ball Corporation (a manufacturer of Mason Jars) stepped in and made enough steel Brodie helmets for all the Marines. Thus, Marines received the nickname “jarhead”.
This beautiful story of a civilian industry intervening in military affairs out of a philanthropic desire to help the defenders of the Republic is likely just folklore sprinkled with just enough facts to make it sound true. While, it cannot be definitively disproved as the facts have been lost to time, neither the National Marine Corps Museum nor the National World War I Museum and Memorial have any evidence to support this story. The National Marine Corps Museum report the 1930s as the first recorded use of the term “jarhead”. When I reflect on this story, I often find myself thinking that even if the story is false, it should be true. This story might present civilian industry an avenue to engage in philanthropy towards the American military that would support a distinct marketing strategy. Imagine how the military could easily adapt a new “nickname” to thank a civilian industry that provided needed equipment or technology.
The designing and fitting of body armor for females is an area where civilian industry could step in to assist the U.S. Military. The poor fit of the current armor is a common complaint among female service members. The fact that females are a minority in the military and are likely to remain so, presents difficulties for the military to prioritize the fitting of protective equipment for such a small population. The military budget is not infinite and other priorities, like lightening equipment loads, would have a much larger impact on the entire community.
On the public relations front, a company redesigning protective equipment for female service members would gain all the advantages of being seen as having a patriotic love for the country, without the negative connotations of supporting “American imperialism”. The company that invested in this technology would provide defensive protection for female service members and not an offensive weapon of war. And who could criticize the defense of women? Certainly, any Feminist or Egalitarian would rejoice at a company designing equipment to allow female service members increased battlefield protection and increased performance. The company could brag how they are removing another “barrier” that prevents females from competing against their male peers. If the development costs and any additional cost to manufacture the armor above the currently issued armor was absorbed by civilian industry, not even the America taxpayer would dare to complain. While this new technology is most needed in the military, this technology could be equally welcomed by female members of law enforcement.
So, is there a company willing to “fit the bill” and benefit with a marketing reward for their charity? Could the myth of “jarheads” be applied to a new generation of equipped female warfighters? Maybe someone like Jeff Bezos step up to the challenge? Female service members could be referred to as “Amazons” out of thanks. Or maybe Disney could dedicate the profits of one of their next movies towards this goal and we might see a generation of “Captain Marvels.” Or maybe Nike could remember their military history within their company’s name. Female service members could be referred to by the word “victory” in ancient Greek.
While I am sure the Department of Defense formally would not endorse this approach, I doubt they would turn down any advanced equipment that could be supplied at or below the cost of current technology. And maybe the official nomenclature of the equipment would never be listed under a catchy name but that does not mean a colloquial name would not stick and become commonly used among the military and the general public. That company may get more loyal customers due to its dedication of resources to safeguarding the lives of the mothers, daughters, and sisters that protect our Republic. I couldn’t imagine a better marketing campaign that female veterans telling their stories about how the armor designed and supplied by a civilian company saved their lives. This neglected area of military research may offer a company a true opportunity to do “virtue” instead of simply “virtue signaling.” Instead of millions of dollars spent on a commercial portraying another strong Feminist message, a company could “put its money where its mouth is” and truly empower women. It is not to say that this task would be easy. It would likely take millions of dollars to design truly modular and light armor systems needed to fit a variety of body types. But I honestly couldn’t imagine marketing money better spent.
I would like to thank my beloved bride for the original idea for this article.
Dr. Franklin Annis is a researcher in the field of military education theory. He has been closely studying and advancing improved theories of military leader development for over 8 years. He created the “Evolving Warfighter” YouTube channel to share his research on Military Self-Development.