Guy W. Farmer: U.S. Army lowers recruiting standards

“People with a history of self-mutilation, bipolar disorder, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse can now seek waivers to join the U.S. Army under an unannounced policy enacted in August.” I could hardly believe my eyes when I read that seemingly incredible story in USA Today last week.

“Fake news,” I thought. But no, it’s a true story and the U.S. Army should be ashamed of itself for stooping so low in a desperate attempt to meet recruiting goals. Last Wednesday, however, an embarrassed Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Miley, rescinded the controversial policy, claiming it had been misunderstood.

Nevertheless, lower recruiting standards might help to explain why disgraced deserter/traitor Bowe Bergdahl was accepted by the Army after he flunked out of the Coast Guard because of mental issues, and how Sutherland Springs, Texas shooter Devin Kelley — who killed 26 people in a small community church earlier this month — managed to “earn” a bad conduct discharge from the Air Force for beating up his wife and infant son. Air Force clerks then failed to enter his name into a federal registry of people not allowed to purchase firearms, yet another depressing example of federal bureaucratic incompetence.

USA Today reported the decision to open Army recruiting to those with mental health conditions came as the service was attempting to meet its 2016 recruiting goals, and revealed the Army “accepted more recruits who fared poorly on aptitude tests, increased the number of waivers granted for marijuana use, and offered hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.”

I don’t understand how proud military heroes like retired Marine generals Jim Mattis, now our Secretary of Defense, and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly could have tolerated such a lowering of military standards, and perhaps they didn’t. After a series of fatal battlefield disasters in the Middle East and ship collisions in the South China Sea, President Trump and our military leaders need to hold the line on recruitment standards rather than wasting their time on social engineering schemes like unisex bathrooms and lactation awareness seminars. And no, I’m not kidding.

A good friend of mine, a retired Army colonel who served with distinction, told me “many seasoned veterans are shaking their heads about the Army’s decision to relax recruiting standards in order to meet quotas,” and expressed his concern “only 3 in 10 18-year-old males can meet current recruiting standards.” This says something about the kind of graduates American high schools are producing, too many of whom can’t meet minimum reading and writing standards.

“What standards?” I asked myself after learning some Nevada school districts, including Carson City and Washoe County, are handing out retroactive high school graduation certificates to students who failed to meet minimum graduation requirements. In other words, in some Nevada school districts everyone gets a participation trophy whether they meet minimum standards or not.

Apparently, some school officials believe that minimum graduation requirements may damage students’ self-esteem, which seems to be more important than actually teaching them how to read and write. A letter to the editor of a Reno newspaper on Tuesday chastised the Washoe County School District for bragging about an 84 percent graduation rate “after eliminating the high school proficiency exam,” and noted Nevada is competing with Mississippi for last place in high school students’ cumulative performance on the mandatory ACT exam as we attempt to compete in the highly competitive technology world.

There are winners and losers in the real world and the American military and public schools should establish and enforce minimum requirements in order to keep our country safe and educated.

Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal’s senior political columnist.


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