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HARPERS- Kerry Was Right: Bad Students Are Getting Stuck In Iraq

February 9th, 2007 | by Ken Grandlund |

Remember John Kerry’s mangled attempt at humor when he quipped about students who didn’t do well in school might end up getting ’stuck in Iraq?’ Despite the fact that Kerry claimed the comment was meant as a barb at President Bush, it turns out that his Freudian slip may have been more prescient than he knew.

According to this Harper’s Magazine article, the U.S. Army has had to seriously lower its standards for new recruits in an effort to meet recruitment goals and amend for attrition rates.

In 2005, the Army didn’t meet its goal of 80,000 enlistees. In 2006, it did meet the goal. But it wasn’t due to snazzy TV ads or a surge in patriotism. Rather, the Army was only able to meet their 2006 recruitment goal by creating an additional 1400 recruiters, increasing enlistment bonuses and by lowering the educational standards for new recruits. The number of non high-school graduates in the 2006 pool was 27.5%- up from 17% in 2005. Compare that to only 5% during the 1990’s.

And the Army has also increased the number of troops coming in with troubled legal pasts, using so called ‘moral waivers.’ Last year, one in ten new recruits had misdemeanor or felony convictions to their names, up over 3500 people from 2004. Add to that a report from the Hartford Courant (not linked in the Harper’s article) that showed how the military was increasingly enlisting soldiers with mental problems.

And to keep the recruitment numbers up, fewer of these recruits (who couldn’t or wouldn’t even finish high school and/or have troubled pasts with the law) are being retained despite poor performance or discipline problems once in uniform. Under new Army guidelines, all commanders were told to cut discharge rates to cut pressure on recruitment. Between 2005 and 2006, discharge rates for new troops went from 18% to only 8%.

I guess when you have an administration bent on perpetual war and a military that is plunged into the middle of foreign civil wars, you need all the cannon fodder you can get, and let’s face it…it doesn’t take a college degree to act as cannon fodder. But as the Army increasingly lowers standards to retain enough warm bodies to fight Bush’s wars, the overall integrity of American military competance will suffer. And this is no hack against America’s fighting men and women, most of whom were not recruited under these conditions and who are thus not the ones this article addresses. It’s just the reality of the situation.

To be blunt- America’s military is dumbing down in it’s efforts to get new recruits. And in this high-tech world of military might, that’s not a good thing.

[tag]recruitment, US+Military, John+Kerry, Harper’s+Magazine, US+Army[/tag]

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  1. 4 Responses to “HARPERS- Kerry Was Right: Bad Students Are Getting Stuck In Iraq”

  2. By Madrocketscientist on Feb 9, 2007 | Reply

    There may be one positive to come from the reduction in standards.  Some of these less than ideal recruits will flourish in the highly disciplined military environment and become good soldiers/sailors/airmen who straighten out their lives and further their education so when they finally get out alive, they will be productive citizens.

    Not all mind you, but before this, these people would have never even had the chance to find out if the military is what they needed.

  3. By ken grandlund on Feb 9, 2007 | Reply

    Well I agree that that is a distinct possibility, and for those folks, great! If, that is, they get out intact, and not physically or mentally destroyed by the Bush regime’s doctrine of unending war.

    But we must remember that, unlike the last century, our military is not an extension of the legal system. It is a highly technical environment and a disciplined one at that. Staffing the ranks with folks who can’t make it through our decidedly dumbed down public school system may tend to drag down that level of professionalism, discipline, and skill we’ve come to rely on.

  4. By Madrocketscientist on Feb 9, 2007 | Reply

    True, and one can only hope that the Professionals in Basic Training and the other Military Training Institutions can locate and remove the worst or at least identify the best and give them the boost needed to succeed and keep the professionalism in the ranks.

  5. By ken grandlund on Feb 9, 2007 | Reply

    Used to be that was the case, but as the article points out, washing out recruits in basic is being frowned upon now in order to relieve pressure on recruiters to fill the ranks.


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