7 In 10 Youth Wouldn’t Qualify For Military Because of Health, Appearance Or Education

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Recent data from the Department of Defense highlight an issue that’s plaguing the military from recruiting optimal candidates. Seven out of 10 average young people, about 71 percent of roughly 34 million 17- to 24-year-olds in the U.S., would be turned away from the military today because of their health, physical appearance or education level.

Common issues like recruits not having a high school diploma, being overweight and having a felony conviction have always been common reasons a youngster couldn’t sign up for the military. Now, having a tattoo in the wrong place or an unacceptable body piercing is becoming more and more the nail in the coffin.

Among the requirements to enlist in the U.S. Army include: being between the ages of 17 and 34, not having a history of persistent illegal drug use, not having a felony conviction, meeting height and weight standards for age group, being a U.S. citizen or foreign national, not having tattoos on fingers, neck or face, not having ear gauges, and having at least a high school diploma or GED with some college credits.

According to The Wall Street Journal, the last three requirements are more often the reasons why someone can’t sign up, with some experts saying that graduating high school seniors this year face the toughest odds to qualify for the military since the draft was abolished in 1973.

The quality of people willing to serve has been declining rapidly,” Gen. Batschelet told the WSJ.

To combat the growing problems among the national youth, 90 retired military leaders formed Mission:Readiness,a nonprofit that aims to raise awareness and find solutions for poor education and health early on, in 2009. Of the estimated 71 percent of youth who wouldn’t qualify for military service, 28 percent alone are due to medical issues including weight and mental health.

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. Before, 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.”