One of the continuing memes we’ve heard for many years is the the Army is the employer of desperation for the underprivileged and mentally feeble. We saw this with Senator Kerry’s odious remarks about studying and staying in school, “or you wind up in Iraq.” There is a strong perception among our population that people join the Army because they can’t do anything else. This, however, is completely false. Cassandra, the lovely and talented hostess of Villainous Company, has spotted another example of someone pontificating about the service without the necessary knowledge to do so without beclowning himself.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- the challenge I faced as a recruiter wasn’t finding people that wanted to join the Army. The challenge was finding qualified people that wanted to join the Army. Roughly a third of the population is excluded from service by means of scoring in the bottom third of the ASVAB. Then there are the hoops of academic credentials that must be jumped through. We’ve seen much gnashing of teeth about the lowering of standards in recruiting, but if you look at the chart on Cassandra’s post, you’ll see that even though more folks with GEDs are being accepted, they are by far still the exception to the rule.
The Army and the other services are in direct competition with both industry and colleges for their recruiting markets. The same attributes we want in a recruit also make these folks attractive to schools and businesses. The demonstrated ability to graduate school, stay out of significant trouble with the law, and desire to work and grow. Added to this, the services also have to screen for physical ability in a way that few employers can. That we are able to find any qualified recruits at all is something of a miracle and certainly a testament to the character of today’s youth.
There are as many reasons to join the Army as there are people in the Army. Still, most people are motivated to join for one or more of the following reasons.
Training- many people want to receive training in a job skill that will translate directly to civilian employment, such as heavy equipment operator.
Education- The GI Bill and Army College Fund are huge incentives for people that want to pay for college.
Adventure- If you’ve lived in the same place all your life, getting out, seeing new places and doing new things has great allure.
Money- You’ll never get rich in the Army, but you can provide for your family.
Service to country- Lot’s of people feel indebted to our country and feel the need to give back in some way.
Few people join for just one of the above reasons. Usually, it is a combination of several of them, with one leading the way. Often, the reason they tell people isn’t the real reason. I justified my enlistment to my parents in large part because of the money for education, but I really joined for adventure and service. If we were to ask people in the service today why they joined, I’m not sure they would give an accurate answer. I know that the longer I served, the more important service to my country became.
Saying that the service is the last chance employer, though, is a slander on those who choose to serve, particularly since it flies in the face of all available evidence.