For generations, men and women who have put on any U.S. military uniform have represented the finest fighting force in the world. Whether Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, active, reserve or National Guard, service in the military was a sacrifice and duty that carried with it a weight of responsibility, and an a bit of prestige.
From the first days of the Revolutionary War through the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, our military has had to fill their ranks, but the need is tempered by the desire to put only the most suitable Americans in uniform.
During times of war, it’s a given that the military needs to bolster its numbers by widening the standards for qualifying enlistees. The United States military implemented drafts to fill its ranks when voluntary service did not provide sufficient numbers. Before the Civil War, each individual state was responsible for providing its own numbers as it saw fit. During the Civil War, the first national draft was implemented. During WWI, American forces were primarily conscripted by use of the draft.
In 1940, the U.S. implemented its first peacetime draft, when President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940. This legislation conscripted hundreds of thousands of Americans into service during WWII, the Korean War, and the war in Vietnam. The draft ended in 1973.
In-between wars, the standing military can be more exclusive. This is a reality that many young Americans are currently finding out. It has been estimated that over 70% of Americans who are of the eligible age to enlist would be deemed ineligible for service in any branch of the U.S. military.
Only about 29% of the 34 million Americans aged17 to 24 would qualify for military service. The other 71% would be deemed ineligible due to a variety of disqualifying criteria, with the top reason being obesity. Other disqualifiers include the lack of a high school diploma or GED, felony convictions, taking prescription drugs for ADHD, and having certain tattoos or ear gauges.
The Pentagon further estimates that even though 29% of young Americans would qualify for military service, only 1% of that demographic would actually sign up.
There is no doubt that American soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines are getting leaner, faster and smarter. The qualifying standards to enter today’s Armed Forces are a whole lot tougher than they were just a few years ago. Some could look on this negatively, while other could see it as raising the bar to join an exclusive group.
Do you have what it takes to be one of the 1%?
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Military Connection: The New 1%: By Debbie Gregory