Thursday, November 20, 2008


I've spent the last week on a short-term recruiting gig, visiting high school classes in several cities in the western half of North Carolina, from classy Smoky Mountain resort cities to economically hopeless Appalachian towns. The full-time recruiters I worked with said that they look at a high school class with the knowledge that about 70% are already disqualified for various reasons, and of those who aren't, only about a third will get a qualifying score on the ASVAB. With that in mind, it was heartbreaking to hear teachers so enthusiastic for their students to enlist, admitting to us privately that the military was the only path they could see for their students to make anything of themselves. "Half these kids think they're going to college," one of them confided in me. "Nine out of ten of those will drop out in their first year." Interacting with high-schoolers these days isn't exactly an encouraging experience.


Elephantschild said...

I had good scores on the ASVAB. Got a couple of recruiter calls, too.

Actually outscored most of the guys on the mechanical comprehension section.

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

Yeah, I did pretty well there, too. I can't imagine how our sister would do on that section; she'd probably break the test.

Shane said...

I strongly believe that for many segments of America, whether urban or rural, the military remains the best vehicle into the solidly middle/upper middle class. More so than college.

Part of it is the security and benefits that the military provides - I happen to think that much of the military resembles a giant federal entitlement program, and I actually mean that in a good way. Sort of.

Some people criticize the military for being exploitative (and some recruiting practices make me slightly uncomfortable when directed at 17 year olds unaccompanied by parents), but really, those critics need to go check out the typical job a working college student holds, or go see what an unpaid intern has to go through for the dubious honor of a referral or a possible future job offer.

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

I agree entirely.

Just to clarify, what was heartbreaking to me was not that teachers were encouraging enlistment, but that so few of the students would meet the military's minimum standards.

What the rest of them are going to do with their lives, I can't imagine.

Shane said...

I'm guessing most of the guys you saw who were disqualified were disqualified for health/criminal history reasons. Although the overall social impact of America's obesity and drug problem is far greater, these things have spilled over into affecting our military readiness by dramatically shrinking the recruiting pool.

I don't know what to do about it, though. Drug policy reform would be nice, but it won't happen under Eric Holder's watch. Maybe healthcare policy reform will make up for the pathetic food policy we have, but I doubt that, also.

Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake said...

The #1 health disqualifier is ADD/ADHD. Any kid who's ever had a prescription for Ritalin is out. That's one the Army's probably going to have to change policy on, or recruitment's going to get really tough in the next few years.

Beyond that, yeah, drugs are a problem, but drug convictions are rarely disqualifying in and of themselves. The biggest problem is the test scores. When 2/3 of students don't reach the 1/3 percentile... that's a problem.