Two-thirds of today’s youth would not qualify for military service

The Pentagon stated that 71% of the millions of 17-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. would not qualify for military service.  “The quality of people willing to serve has been declining rapidly,” said Major General Allen Batschelet, U.S. Army Recruiting Command’s commanding general.

According to The Wall Street Journal, until recently, military services do not keep exact figures on how many people are turned away but estimates over two-thirds of today’s youth are ineligible.  Typical disqualifications include obesity, lack of a high school diploma or GED, felonies, those taking certain prescription drugs, and inappropriately placed tattoos.  However, these infractions can be waived

Only about 1% of youths are both “eligible and inclined to have a conversation with us” about military service, according to Batschelet.  Even with the U.S. removing troops from conflict zones, a challenge is presented to the Defense Department as how it will construct the next generation of soldiers.

Time Magazine reported around 180,000 men and women volunteer for and enter active-duty forces each year, though U.S. military activity in recent years has led to less stringent standards for recruitment. In 2007, only 79% of those enlisted had a high school diploma.  In 2001 that figure was 90%. During the Iraq war, the military was also less strict about soldiers’ body fat.

“We have not adopted a zero-defect mentality,” said Defense Department spokesman Nathan Christensen, who noted that the military’s recruiting targets in recent years have been met. “We evaluate each applicant from a whole-person perspective.”

One-fourth of high school graduates cannot pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test.  The exam is designed to measure math and reading skills.  The Defense Department stated that these applicants aren’t educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs.

The Wall Street Journal reported on David Monzon, a 23-year-old East Los Angeles man, who had long wanted to join the Army but wasn’t able to enlist after graduating.  At 5 feet 6 inches tall, he weighed 300 pounds.  Following a strict diet plan, Monzon eliminated pizza, cheese burgers, french fries and other fatty foods from his diet.  He also began riding his bike wherever he could.

In February, Monzon, who had lost 90 pounds, walked back into the Los Angeles recruiting center. U.S. Army First Sgt. James Sawyer told him he was impressed but that he still needed to lose a little bit more.

“I was pretty confident I would make it,” Monzon said. And he did. Now 190 pounds, Monzon will head to South Carolina in September for basic training.


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