Military recruitment faces a huge problem — one in three potential recruits are disqualified from service because they’re overweight. Too few young Americans can meet the military’s minimum standards. They’re too fat, too dumb, have a criminal record or a history of drug abuse.
Here’s the arithmetic: one in three potential recruits are disqualified from service because they’re overweight. 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: that’s 24 million out of 34 million Americans. The good news is that while the military takes pride in attracting those who are fit, educated, law abiding, and drug-free, they’re having difficulty finding them—manifestly because fewer of them actually exist.
Some want the military to lower its standards to make more young goof-offs eligible. I think that’s a bad idea. I was in the Navy in the 1960s when the recruitment standards were much lower or non-existent. It was a mess. In those days a judge could give a young man who ran afoul of too many laws the option of joining the military. Many did so in order to stay out of jail. I served next to some guys who should have been in prison instead of the Navy. It was debilitating. It was crazy.
I hated that part of the Navy. Some of my Navy time was on small Fletcher Class destroyer. That was good duty, being a small ship with a small crew (200 is small on a U.S. war ship) the Captain could be choosy and he was. He didn’t suffer any fools gladly. Later I was on a behemoth helicopter carrier and that’s where I found ship mates that disgusted me. Shipmates that had no business being there. They were a morale problem.
No one eligible for prison is eligible for the military now. That’s a very good thing. It should not change. The thing that has to change is the American educational system. Maybe the military should take it over. My Constitutional Law professor in law school (1974-1977) made an argument based on McCulloch v. Maryland, 17 U.S. 316 (1819) that it could.