I was Honorably Discharged and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Army 10 years ago. While retirees may be recalled up to active duty within the first five years, to this day, I still train hard and keep myself in good physical condition if ever my nation calls.
When I was growing up, physical fitness was an important aspect of our character. As kids, we lived to be outside and doing physical things. I remember the days when us fellas wanted a weight bench and weights for Christmas so we could pump iron. We ran, played ball in the streets or any unoccupied parking lot, and did chores like cutting grass for pocket money.
But today, it seems the strongest muscles on some kids are their thumbs and popular culture has done nothing to strengthen their character. This listlessness has so permeated our society that according to the Wall Street Journal, “More than two-thirds of America’s youth would fail to qualify for military service because of physical, behavioral or educational shortcomings, posing challenges to building the next generation of soldiers even as the U.S. draws down troops from conflict zones.”
“The military deems many youngsters ineligible due to obesity, lack of a high-school diploma, felony convictions and prescription-drug use for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder,” according to the Wall Street Journal. “But others are now also running afoul of standards for appearance amid the growing popularity of large-scale tattoos and devices called ear gauges that create large holes in earlobes.”
We have an all-volunteer military but the requirements — especially for a smaller, more technologically-advanced force — are higher than ever. And with the Obama administration’s push for social egalitarianism in the U.S. military, it doesn’t get any better. When you add in the horrific treatment of our veterans you’d think recruitment would be suffering. Actually, it’s not.
But what is suffering is the development of America’s young people.
“We’re trying to make decision makers see this is a national-security matter—and they need to prioritize it,” said retired Major Gen. Allen Youngman. In the past, he said, “a drill sergeant could literally run the weight off a soldier as part of the regular training program,” but now, “we have young people showing up at the recruiter’s office who want to serve but are 50 or more pounds overweight.”
About a quarter of high-school graduates also can’t pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test, which measures math and reading skills, Gen. Youngman said. “They aren’t educationally qualified to join the military in any capacity, not just the high-tech jobs,” he said.
U.S. Army First Sgt. James Sawyer, who heads recruiting across a swath of Los Angeles County, said tattoos have become the most common cosmetic reason that applicants are disqualified. As the Wall Street Journal reports, the Army already banned tattoos on the face, neck and fingers, but according to regulations in effect May 1, soldiers also can’t have more than a total of four visible tattoos below the elbows and knees, and tattoos must be relatively small. The goal of the tattoo rules is to maintain a professional-looking Army, Sgt. Sawyer said. He added that “the average person in California has a tattoo.”
Why are High School JROTC programs important? It’s not so much to train young people to join the military, but rather to instill in them positive values and leadership traits — and develop them physically.
I would submit that excessive tattooing, body piercings, obesity and lack of intellectual rigor can all be rectified with a dose of focused discipline. A breakdown of the family in most minority communities doesn’t help either.
What we are witnessing is not just a crisis for our military, but a crisis for our Republic.