They don’t have all that many people to pick from, however. Just as the military is entering into a period of renewed expansion, there are fewer qualified candidates and even fewer expressing an interest. According to the Pentagon, if every person in the country age 18 to 24 showed up to apply, roughly three out of four would have to be turned away because they simply couldn’t qualify.
Nearly three-quarters of young Americans are ineligible to serve in the United States military due to obesity, criminal record, or lack of education, according to a new report by the Heritage Foundation.
The contracted pool of Americans aged 17 to 24 who are fit to enlist in the armed services poses an “alarming” threat to national security and risks derailing the Trump administration’s path to rebuilding a depleted military, the report found, citing Pentagon data.
The Pentagon estimates that 24 million of the 34 million Americans between 17 and 24 years old, or 71 percent, are unable to serve.
Health problems are the greatest obstacle to military service, with more than half of the young people who are ineligible for service suffering from a health issue.
This is particularly bad news at the moment because the Army is getting ready to recruit up to 80,000 new soldiers in the coming two years. The Navy isn’t quite as hard up, but they’re going to need 30,000 more sailors. All of this recruiting will be required to expand the service in line with the plans put in place by President Trump.
So what is disqualifying so many of them? For the majority, it’s health issues. Of those, more than half are too obese to be accepted. (The Army is saying they’ll take you if you’re “a little chubby” but if you’re seriously obese there won’t be time in basic training to whip you into shape.) Others are showing up with joint problems, respiratory ailments and related issues. Others failed to graduate high school or get an equivalent degree and are refused entry until they can meet the educational standards.
Other people hoping to enlist have criminal records. If it’s a couple of minor items you can sometimes get a waiver, but if you’ve run up any sort of serious criminal background they have to reject you. (As they should.) This is a big change from the bad old days of the Vietnam War when it was still not all that uncommon for a judge at sentencing to offer a defendant a choice of jail or boot camp.
The other problem the military is facing is a rather ironic one. Unemployment is nearing historic lows at the moment and that’s traditionally when fewer people turn to the military for a career. If better paying (and, frankly, less dangerous) jobs are plentiful, fewer young people are looking to the armed services as a better and more secure alternative to stocking shelves at Walmart. But with luck, enough of the truly dedicated and patriotic ones will keep their noses clean, work themselves into shape and volunteer to serve their nation.