The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

The Few, the Proud, the Normal

Posted on | August 21, 2018 | Comments Off on The Few, the Proud, the Normal


A concern for operational security prohibits me from bragging too much on my son’s achievements, but I suppose people can count the stripes and figure out that his military career is going pretty well. He serves in what is routinely called an “elite” unit. In the 21st century, however, merely being in the military is kind of elite, considering how the quality of young civilians has been declining:

In April, Trump followed up on his pledge by signing a defense bill that . . . called for an increase in the military’s size in 2018 by adding 20,000 new personnel — including 7,500 more soldiers, 4,000 more sailors, 1,000 new Marines, and 4,100 more airmen.
Senior military officers, and particularly Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, celebrated the increase. . . . So it is that the Army set its 2018 recruiting goal at 80,000 soldiers. Initially, at least, Milley’s target seemed modest, reachable. It wasn’t.
In April, the Army revised that number — downwards. Instead of recruiting 80,000, it announced that it would recruit 76,500 new soldiers. But even that number might be too high, as the Army notes that it’s recruited only 28,000 in the first six months of the year. 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: 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.
Then too, 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.

(Hat-tip: Instapundit.) I’ve always thought of my kids as normal — healthy, red-blooded Americans — but our ideas of what is normal will have to be re-calculated, if two-thirds of young people are either too fat or too stupid to qualify for military service. Nowadays, most kids are far below the previous average, and the old “normal” is the new “elite.”



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