Three Quarters of 17 to 24-Year-Olds Unqualified to Serve in the Military

Friday, November 06, 2009

It used to be that joining the Army was a way for a young person to have a career and get in shape. But these days millions of young people have no chance whatsoever of becoming a soldier because they’re in such poor condition. The Defense Department estimates that more than one-third (35%) of all Americans aged 17 to 24 are unqualified for military service because of physical and medical issues. This amounts to around 11 million young men and women out of a total of 31.5 million.

The biggest obstacle for young Americans is obesity. In 1987, only 6% of 17 to 24-year-olds were obese. Today, it is approaching 25%. With obesity comes a large number of health problem —hypertension, Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer that make it impossible for these people to ever put on a uniform:
While the Army has never expected new recruits to arrive at boot camp in pristine shape, the reality is there’s just too much weight to drop for many young people. “Kids are just not able to do push-ups,” tCurt Gilroy, the Pentagon’s director of accessions, told the Army Times. “And they can’t do pull-ups. And they can’t run.”
Another 18% of 17 to 24-year-olds have engaged in illegal drug use, 9% are ineligible because their intelligence level ranks in the lowest 10% of the population, 6% have custody of under age children, and 5% have disqualifying criminal records.
Mission: Readiness, an organization of retired generals, admirals and civilian military leaders, noted that a quarter of young Americans failed to complete high school, and even 30% who do have a high school degree fail the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which examines math and reading skills.
Although the weak economy has helped all branches of the military meet their recruiting goals this year, research shows that only about 12% of military-eligible youth have a “propensity to serve.”
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
Most U.S. Youths Unfit to Serve, Data Show (by William McMichael, Army Times)
Ready, Willing And Unable To Serve (Mission: Readiness) (PDF)


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