Recruiters must reach potential recruits early to set them straight on enlistment today. Recruits think anybody can enlist. Many see the military as a last resort in a tough job market, always being an option. Truth is, the class of 2014 now leaving high school will face more difficulty qualifying for the armed services than ever in the 40-year history of the all-volunteer force.
Tougher restrictions exist now. Don’t ever get caught with a joint, work out to shed weight and be extra careful about getting tattoos. Societal trends aren’t helping. As a slumping economy is fueling increased interest in military service, those in the 17-24 age range are ineligible to enlist.
The days of commanders granting waivers for conduct and health issues that in peacetime would keep candidates out of the military are over. Only 86 percent of new recruits at the height of the Iraq War had completed high school. Many with felony convictions were allowed in.
Today, 99 percent of recruits have graduated from high school. The military branches expect higher scores on the ASVAB test, which quizzes candidates on tools, electrical circuitry, language and math.
Obesity alone disqualifies 27 percent of those trying to enlist. The military wants a leaner, more fit recruit to consider. Many others are ruled out by problems ranging from juvenile crime, to unfinished schooling, to massive credit card debt. And still, dropouts march to recruiting offices expecting to sign up. Teens with stretched piercings in their earlobes, so-called gauges, leave dejected after a recruiter informs them this is a disqualifying trait.
Tattoos are the biggest surprise disqualifier. The Army in April this year rolled out restrictions on tattoos below the elbows and knees. Only four such tattoos are now allowed and they must be small enough to be covered by the wearer’s hand. No tattoos whatsoever on the wrists, hands, neck or head.