This was originally published in The Belle Banner, Belle Missouri October 17th 2018.
The fiscal year of the federal government is October 1st of this year to September 30th.of next year. Last fiscal year the US Army failed to meet its recruiting goal. The Army’s original recruiting goal for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 was set at 80,000 new recruits. In April that goal was reduced to 76,500 due to increased reenlistments. The recruiting goal was set to increase the size of the Army from the current around 476,000 to around 500,000 soldiers. About 70,000 new soldiers were enlisted in FY 2018. The goal was to have 483,500 by the end of FY 2018, the Army still has around 476,000 soldiers.
The New York Times recently published an article which said that the Army missed its goal even after lowering standards to let in more troops with conduct or health issues. That was an incorrect statement. Standards have not been lowered. Standards were lowered in 2007 during the surge in Iraq, after which the Army saw spikes in behavioral and other problems. The Secretary of the Army and the Chief of Staff of the Army have vowed that standards will not be lowered. Brigadier General Kevin Vereen, the Deputy Commander of the US Army Recruiting Command recently hinted that some waivers of disqualifications may be considered, which have not been previously. He said that some of the disqualifications are mind-boggling, such as eczema (irritated skin) and minor misconduct that boils down to kids being kids. He said; “There are some people who should be given the opportunity to join the Army and have not been given a fair shake.” He said there has to be a balance, he doesn’t want to see new recruits enter the Army and become immediate misconduct problems for commanders. He said the Army will not sacrifice quality for quantity.
A roaring economy makes recruiting for the Army tougher, and the United States has the lowest unemployment rate since 1969. Plus 75 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 17 and 24 are ineligible to join the military, even if they wanted to. According to reports, that means 24 million of the 34 million of that age group are not qualified for military service. About 25 percent of those entering recruiting stations nationwide cannot pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test. That leaves a very small group of people available to recruiters. The Army’s plan is to offer more money in enlistment bonuses and put more recruiters on the street.
Aside from walking in Indian country knowing you’re being watched, Army recruiting duty is one of, if not the most, stressful jobs in the Army. A small percentage of Army Recruiters volunteer for the duty, most are assigned by Department of the Army Headquarters to that duty. In 2008 Sergeant First Class Patrick Henderson a 35 year old combat veteran of Iraq, who suffered from PTSD, had been on recruiting duty for a year when he went into his backyard shed, locked the door and hanged himself with a dog chain. He was the fifth recruiter suicide in seven years in that Recruiting Battalion. Since 2001 there have been 17 Army Recruiter suicides. SFC Henderson’s suicide caused an investigation by Department of the Army, after which recruiting quotas were changed from individual quotas to station missions. That change allowed recruiters in an Army Recruiting Station to work together as a team, instead of each individual working alone. It has helped.
But, could this be the hint of a much deeper problem than the Army missing a recruiting goal one year. We’ll just throw in more money and recruiters and make it up next year. That may not be possible, considering the people available. Economics are keeping some of the world bad guys in check, but their thirst for power is obvious. China’s Navy is becoming very aggressive in the South China Sea and in particular around US Navy ships. Russia is aggressive in Eastern Europe and next door to Alaska. Hopefully North Korea is being brought under control. And then there is the leader of Iran shouting “Death of America”. At the height of World War II the United States of America had over 12,000,000 men in uniform. Today we have about 1,350,000 on active duty and another 800,000 in the Reserves and National Guard. So if we wake up one morning and were in a major war, where do we get the people to defend this country? Return to the draft?
China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran all have mandatory military service, plus 22 other countries, including Austria, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Mexico, Switzerland, and Israel which requires men and women to serve in the military. No politician is interested in reinstating the draft and neither is the military, but what if we have to. Lowering the standards may be necessary, but it would have consequences. When men were drafted they took all the tests, just like now. The AFQT (Armed Forces Qualification Test) results are divided into four categories, if a draftee scored in category four, the lowest, he was rejected from military service. During the Vietnam War, Defense Secretary McNamara decided to allow 100,000 category four’s into service. They were called “McNamara’s 100,000”, and they caused many problems. I had four infantry privates, who had graduated from college and were drafted. They caused no problems, McNamara’s 100,000 caused a lot of the drug, fragging, and race problems in Vietnam. So what’s the answer, draft all the overweight, but otherwise qualified people and put them through several weeks of weight reduction, health, and strength training prior to basic training – possibly.
This could be a National Security crises. In February, The Heritage Foundation published a report that elaborated on the causes of this crisis. Of the 75 percent of the ineligible 17 to 24 year old people, 32 percent are because of health problems primarily obesity. The number of overweight kids grows every year. Improper diet, lack of physical activity, and too much sugar are the big culprits. Carbonated high sugar content soft drinks like Coke, Pepsi and all their derivatives cause weight gain. Too much consumption along with chips or candy causes a lot of fat weight gain. I wonder if not having a Home Economics Class has anything to do with this. We now have a couple generations of mothers who have not had a class on setting a table and planning a nutritious meal. Inadequate physical fitness accounts for 27 percent. People who have never exercised or performed hard physical work, plus not following a proper diet, often takes many months of strict regimen to get their bodies in good physical condition. Lack of education, a high school diploma, is the problem for 25 percent. Current policy for those with only a GED is that they must have 15 semester hours of college before they can enlist. A full 10 percent are disqualified because of criminal history. The Department of Justice reported that in 2015 nearly one million juveniles were arrested, and according to The Pittsburg Youth Study 52 to 57 percent of those continue to offend up to age 25. In 2016 a third of all Americans had used marijuana within the past year and 50 percent in their lifetime. Sexual offensives and drunk driving prevent many from being able to enlist in the military. Kids involved in good organized programs like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, junior ROTC, and 4H don’t usually fall into this category. Belle High School is fortunate to have Mr. Chris Mertz, and now with the help of Mrs. James, guiding a tremendously successful FFA program. It is popular with the students and is producing good citizens.
What would happen if the draft was reinstated? Riots? The military is one percent of the US population. There has become such a disconnect between the general public and the military, that the military, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been largely ignored by a majority of people. Military service is almost becoming a family business. Children of career military people become career military people. Alabama, a state of 5 million people sends more people to the military than the cities of Los Angles, Chicago, and New York combined which have an area population of over 40 million, according to an Army colonel in April. Up until the Vietnam War most men accepted the call, when drafted, served their time, did their duty and came home. Some celebrities answered the call when they were drafted, some did not.
With the probability of going to war in Vietnam, protests, riots, and draft card burnings made national news. Some actually moved to Canada to avoid being drafted.
Serving in the military is a noble and honorable thing to do. Whether a combat infantryman, a cook in the chow hall, a clerk behind a desk or a mechanic in the motor pool, serving is an honorable thing to do and with that service should be pride. Society in the United States of America has changed much and not necessarily for the better since January 20th 1961, when in his Inaugural Address President Kennedy said; “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”