A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A continued discussion on the state of military readiness

A colleague of mine whom I esteem very highly contributed some very thought-inspiring comments on my previous post regarding recruitment in the high schools. Now, much of this that will follow has nothing to do with recruitment in the high schools, per se, but more on the readiness of our armed forces and the state of the military today. But my thoughts started to run so long in response that I decided to place them here as well and expand upon them. Now I am speaking as a concerned citizen, rather than as a teacher.

Many people claim that the military has been meeting its quotas with ease. I am going to gently disagree regarding the interpretation of the Army and its quotas right now. That has been accomplished by lowering the quotas and even more significantly the standards potential recruits must meet. This is an even more vital issue now that the maximum size of the Army and Marine Corps has been increased after five years of continual downsizing.

Let me direct your attention to this article from FOX News, hardly a bastion of military-haters:
The Army and Marine Corps are letting in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, reflecting the increased pressure of five years of war and its mounting casualties.

According to data compiled by the Defense Department, the number of Army and Marine recruits needing waivers for felonies and serious misdemeanors, including minor drug offenses, has grown since 2003. The Army granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in 2006 than it did in 2003. Some recruits may get more than one waiver.

The military routinely grants waivers to admit recruits who have criminal records, medical problems or low aptitude scores that would otherwise disqualify them from service. Overall the majority are moral waivers, which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic and drug offenses.

The number of felony waivers granted by the Army grew from 411 in 2003 to 901 in 2006, according to the Pentagon, or about one in 10 of the moral waivers approved that year. Other misdemeanors, which could be petty theft, writing a bad check or some assaults, jumped from about 2,700 to more than 6,000 in 2006. The minor crimes represented more than three-quarters of the moral waivers granted by the Army in 2006, up from more than half in 2003.

...In recent years, as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have dragged on, the military has also relaxed some standards in order to meet recruitment demands. The Army, for example, increased its age limit for recruits from 35 to 42, and is accepting more people whose scores on a standardized aptitude test are at the lower end of the acceptable range.

In its report, the Pentagon said, "The waiver process recognizes that some young people have made mistakes, have overcome their past behavior, and have clearly demonstrated the potential for being productive, law-abiding citizens and members of the military."

According to the Pentagon, nearly a quarter of new military recruits needed some type of waiver in 2006, up from 20 percent in 2003. Roughly 30,000 moral waivers were approved each year between 2003 and 2006.

The military in its report divides moral waivers into six categories: felonies, serious and minor non-traffic offenses, serious and minor traffic offenses and drug offenses. Because many states have different crimes categorized as a felony or misdemeanor, the groupings are more general.

About one in five Army recruits needed a waiver to enlist in 2006, up from 12.7 percent in 2003. In addition, the report showed that the Army granted substantially fewer waivers for drug use and serious traffic violations last year than in 2003.

More than half of the Marine recruits needed a waiver in 2006, a bit higher than in 2003, and largely due to their more strict drug requirements. Felony waivers made up about 2 percent of the Marine waivers, while other lesser crimes made up about 25 percent, both up slightly from 2003.

About 18 percent of Navy recruits required a waiver, up only slightly from 2003. Two-thirds of the waivers granted by the Navy were for misdemeanor-type crimes and about 5 percent were for felonies.

Just 8 percent of Air Force recruits had waivers, down a bit from 2003. Nearly all of the waivers were for the misdemeanor-type crimes.

The Air Force and the Navy have absolutely been making their quotas, but they are not bearing the brunt of the fighting in this war.

Now, in the interest of my former students who are in the military, I do not believe it honors them to put them alongside criminals as they seek to serve our country. Another one of my students went to take the ASVAB a few weeks ago and came back disgusted. The "passing" score on the ASVAB has been lowered to a 36 but sometimes as low as a 21 on a 99 point scale. The Air Force requires a 36, and the Navy requires a 35. Meanwhile the Army requires a 31, and the Marines require a 32. (The Coast Guard wins the prize for requiring a 40, by the way.) Honestly, would YOU want to serve next to someone who is carrying an M-16 pointed at your head as he or she lay alongside you on the line who could only manage a 21 or even a 31 on the ASVAB? Would any educator worth their salt consider even a 36 out of 99 a passing score? I personally have more comfort with raising the age requirement to 42. There are plenty of forty-year-olds who are more fit than twenty-year-olds. My husband and I have also played a game of chicken with the age limits-- we have aged out and come back under the maximum age requirements more than once in the last 5 years.

Then there's the whole issue of the alleged bias of the "liberal" MSM (Main Stream Media) being unfair. There are certainly biased people in the media. Close your eyes and start listing the people employed in the media who obviously have an axe to grind. The ones who have annoyed you the most are the ones you will list, while the ones with whom you agree will probably not emerge on the internal radar, because that's human nature. There are left and right-wing zealots, and then there's a huge swath in the middle.

If we as American citizens accede to the vilification of the entire "Mainstream Media," what remains to us as a source of information? Administration spokespeople? That certainly does NOT seem to be a more reliable source of information that is always unstintingly honest and even-handed. And, without sounding cynical or flip, why should it be? Full disclosure is not the purpose of government talking-heads-- re-election or re-appointment for their bosses is. Nothing wrong with that, as long as everyone realizes this. Certainly one should be aware of all kinds of biases in any source or information, but a free press is the foundation of democracy. Beware anyone who tries to undermine it-- they are leading us down the path of Stalin and Karimov and Shwe. If you don't trust Newspaper A, fine! Get your news from a variety of sources, watch Glenn Beck or Carson Palmer or or the host of other commentators, whatever! Here in America, the news and the internet is open and free. Recognize that, and act upon it.

Regarding the comparison of suburban America and Iraq in terms of dangerousness: no matter what, we don't have Americans wearing body armor and driving REAL Humvees (not those shiny suburban bling-encrusted grocery and soccer team shuttles, but REAL ones) still being grievously wounded and killed here in America. We don't have IEDs planted along major thoroughfares. If we really want to compare apples to apples, let's compare the death rate of civilians in Baghdad to the death rate of civilians in DC or St. Louis or Detroit or wherever.

Another, more logical comparison would be to compare the death rates of police (since that is the function a large portion of our military is performing in Iraq) in these dangerous cities with our troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan on a per capita basis. Simply divide the number of police casualties in one of the American battlefields, if you will, by the total number on the police force, then compare to the number of military casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan divided by the total number of troops on the ground. And, we could actually look at the number of all the casualties among our service-men and -women in Iraq and Afghanistan, including those who are injured in evasive maneuvers employed against IEDs even though no enemy fire may have contributed to their injuries.

We've had some great recruiters come to our school and hook our students up with all kinds of opportunities that they would not have otherwise have had. These I honor with my whole heart as the daughter niece and granddaughter of veterans who have put their lives on the line. My dad would never have been able to pay the bills without the discipline instilled in the Navy or the GI Bill training and preferences he received! But these recruiters of which I speak did their jobs without resorting to lies, or by forcing kids to hear their pitch.

Finally, if going into the military is good enough for the least in our society, it should be good enough for everyone in our society.

Let's ALL demonstrate that serving our country is honorable and noble beyond words or sound bites or political posturing. I actually sometimes wonder what the policies regarding our military and this war would be like if every senator and representative who has either served in the Middle East themselves or who has a son, daughter, or spouse actively serving in the current conflict would have three times as much of a vote on war policy as those who have no vested interest. It might be interesting to see what would happen.

We say that our military is the very best our country has to offer. But let's remember, WE don't really offer them-- they offer themselves through volunteering to serve. That is a vital difference.

How do we really revere that sacrifice? Most obviously, we demonstrate that military service is noble and honorable by the way we treat our potential recruits, our servicemembers, and especially our veterans.

They deserve the very BEST our incredibly wealthy country has to offer-- and I don't just mean that as empty sloganeering.

They deserve the BEST equipment --and as much as they need.

They deserve not to be treated as chattel, or indentured servants, or mere faceless "boots on the ground."

They deserve not to be warehoused upon their return home. They deserve the VERY BEST medical facilites and veterans benefits.

All I am asking is this: recruit our young people without disingenuousness. And at the very least, they deserve not to be lied to.

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At 2/14/07, 11:24 AM, Blogger Ms. George said...

Very persuasively, logically, and beautifully written, Ms. Cornelius!
I would add that many of the 'talking heads' in the media would feel differently about troop surges, etc. if their children were involved as well. We keep asking the same sacrifices from the same people. Perhaps a draft would equalize things, or is that not the answer? I don't know.

At 2/14/07, 4:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As the daughter of a Korean war vet - a Marine - I am really saddened that they've had to really scrape for the dregs of society to fight. But, I guess it's been this way for a long time. However, the US Marines hold themselves up to be an elite fighting unit. Yuck.

At 2/14/07, 9:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The marine are scraping the dregs of society? Please, by all means miss profe, live your convictions and say that, in person, to every Marine you see.

My response to Ms. C's original post, which apparently got this ball rolling, had essentially these simple messages:

(1) The left, and the MSM, which is undeniably biased to the left (would you like me to direct you to the direct statements of members of the MSM admitting it?) do indeed tell lies about the military and recruiters, therefore, it is wise to exercise a bit of caution in believing urban myths.

(2) Recruiters, by and large, have every reason to be honest and above board, and little motivation to lie, nor would such lies be believable.

That said, there is no doubt that some recruiters, being human, have said dopey things. There is no doubt that some have misbehaved, and we need no knowledge other than they are human to know that to a certainty.

While it would not be difficult to refute, point by point the stats you provided in your more recent, more lengthy post, it think it suffices to observe that your response to the "offense" was a bit excessive. After all, what more was required if you decided that you did not wish to take up a recruiter's e-mailed offer than to (1) not respond, or, more politely, (2) simply say no thank you?

Methinks thou dost protest too much.

At 2/15/07, 9:01 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Mike, all I did was ignore it.

I fail to see how that is "excessive"-- and fail to see how you would characterize my actions as such.

At 2/16/07, 6:53 PM, Blogger Bob W. said...

I wrote about military readiness today on my blog as well. I looked at some different indicators of military readiness. You can find my analysis here.

At 2/16/07, 8:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. C:

Considering your two lengthy and rather impassioned posts on this topic, the first apparently inspired by the very e-mail you said that you ignored, and the second apparently at least partly in response to my reply to your initial post, one might be forgiven for thinking that your concerns on this matter go beyond merely ignoring an e-mail about which no one would have known absent your initial post.

Have a good weekend!

At 2/17/07, 3:10 PM, Blogger "Ms. Cornelius" said...

Dear Mike,

They're opinions. I have a right to them. I have a blog. I write posts about what I think. You've visited here often, so I assume that you enjoy reading said opinions, even if you may not agree with all of them. Therefore, I do not understand what you are so tense about. I think about all kinds of things, and I post about all kinds of things.

We are grown-ups, and we can disagree and still respect each other. Did I perhaps offend you by responding to what you said? That certainly, most assuredly, was not my intent, and I am truly sorry if that happened. Because I view that conversation as what a blog is for, and I thought about and responded to what you said.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, too.


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