The problem, it seems, isn’t that young people don’t want to join the Army — or any of the services — it’s that they can’t. And therein lies a paradox: for while the U.S. military represents the best in America (as its most senior officers claim), it doesn’t actually represent America. For that to be true, two thirds of our military would have to consist of obese, under-educated former drug users and convicted criminals.
Here’s the arithmetic: one in three potential recruits are disqualified from service because they’re overweight, one in four cannot meet minimal educational standards (a high school diploma or GED equivalent), and one in 10 have a criminal history. In plain terms, about 71 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds (the military’s target pool of potential recruits) are disqualified from the minute they enter a recruiting station …
Of the pool of remaining potential recruits, only one in eight actually want to join the military, and of that number, fully 30 percent of those who have the requisite high school diploma or GED equivalent fail to pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test (the AFQT), which is used to determine math and reading skills.
Here’s a sample question: “Five workers earn $135/day. What is the total amount earned by the five workers?” Put more simply, the purpose of the AFQT isn’t to identify the most qualified, but to winnow out the illiterate, the 30 percent who can’t read, write, or count, despite their high school diplomas.
“There are 30 some million 17 to 24 year-olds out there, but by the time you get all the way down to those that are qualified, you’re down to less than a million young Americans,” Marine Corps Major General Mark Brilakis says. …
The military cannot lower standards:
A legendary West Point “tank study” of the 1980s … showed smarter tank gunners are actually more accurate tank gunners — that, in effect, smarter soldiers are better soldiers. It’s not simply that smarter recruits are more capable of operating sophisticated weapons systems (like the F-35); they’re better fighters, too, which is, after all, the whole point. …
It’s also cultural: the left-leaning US states don’t contribute:
One of the challenges the military faces is that it recruits in states where America has the greatest fitness and obesity challenge — the Deep South. For while America’s soldiers, sailors, and airmen are educated, fit, and good citizens, they’re also religious, rural, conservative (80 percent of military personnel voted for Donald Trump), and Southern.
“I may have met two or three New Englanders when I was in the Army,” retired Colonel Kevin Benson told me, “but that would be about it.”
hat-tip Stephen Neil