A little inside baseball

So, I’m stealing this from a forum I belong to:

52 Lima who’s stationed in fort Gordon GA, ” all grunts are stupid dumbasses that couldn’t score over a 35 on the ASVAB, and are good for nothing but cannon fodder, that don’t make up the backbone of the army, we’re better off without them. “


A little translation. As far as I can tell, 52L isn’t even a current MOS, so I think someone is just yanking some chains.

The ASVAB, Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery, is a battery of tests designed to show, well, aptitude in several areas, in order to judge the likelihood that an enlistee will be successful in training in whatever specialty they enlist for. There are about half a dozen different scores such as General Technical and whatnot. And then there’s the score that counts when you enlist. The “overall” score is from 1 to 99, roughly indicating the percentile one falls into in terms of IQ across the population. It’s a cross between native intelligence and education. The minimum score for enlistment in the Army is 32.

There’s long been a perception that the combat arms, Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Combat Engineer, etc, are jam packed with enlistees who scored in the lower tranches of the ASVAB. A common insult of a not so bright fellow soldier is to call him a CAT IV, for the lowest tranche of the ASVAB.

But here’s the thing. Yes, combat arms, and the Infantry, take their fair share of folks who are not towering intellects. But oddly, there are a ton of people who are incredibly bright, scoring far, far above average, in the 90 percentile and above, who chose the Infantry.

Think about it. A lot of very bright young men go through high school and just aren’t challenged. They live comfortable suburban lives, hear the tales of their elders, play sports maybe, and cruise through high school with little or no effort.  But the summons of the trumpet is strong. They know they’re smart, but do they know if they are men? What more traditional test of manhood is there than war?

Anecdotal evidence (and yes, I know the plural of anecdote is not “data”), when I was a recruiter, applicants with scores from 32-50 that enlisted tended to end up either in Field Artillery, Motor Transport, or other related support fields. Applicants with scores from 50-80 tended to end up in technical fields. With only one exception* can I recall an applicant with a score over 80 not joining the combat arms. He enlisted  as a Blackhawk mechanic, became a crew chief, and enjoyed the heck out of it.

As my Bradley crossed the berm into Iraq at the opening of Desert Storm, the topic of conversation amongst the grunts in back was… Shakespeare.

*Women excepted, of course. The field of choice for very high scoring women was either Military Police, or the medical field technical specialties.

15 thoughts on “A little inside baseball”

  1. When I commanded my Bradley rifle company in 87-88 the average GT Score in my company was 124.

    Just sayin’!

    1. One of my schools the students very consistently scored 90 or better. And pretty much all who enlisted when Infantry or Cav Scout.

      The other schools, well, it was a more representative curve.

      One of my fellow recruiters had a couple schools where the honor students would be lucky to score in the mid 30s. They were truly atrocious schools.

  2. I served five years with a Light Infantry Battalion and I can say that the “dumb grunt” stereotype is fallacious at best. There were more than a few Infantrymen who were frighteningly intelligent. When I asked them why they chose Infantry with an intellect like theirs, the (paraphrased) reply was usually something like, “I want to blow shit up and kill bad guys.” Who am I to judge?

  3. I can’t believe you skipped over Intel, Brad! We had a lot of ladies in the 98 series. My personal experience was that the dumbest guys I ever met was the cooks I went to BCT with. They do stuff like hold contests as to who could hold their hands in a fire ant nest the longest (13 seconds if you were curious). Heck I had one pay me $60 to get some dice for him and his buddies to play craps with. I broke a pencil and put pips on each of the six sides. I can’t believe they didn’t think of it.

    Anecdotally, I heard that if you bottomed out the ASVAB, but still barely qualified, the only MOS open was in graves registration. Digging holes. Not sure how true that is, but it’s what I heard.

    1. I only put one troop into Intel, and that was really just a “courtesy ship” of a troop who had enlisted elsewhere, and moved to my area prior to shipping out. Nice girl, bright as all get out. Just had to drive her to MEPS when it was time.

  4. When I was at ITB at Ft. Benning back in the mid-’90s, we had an 11B specialist come through who was a medical doctor. A no-shit MD. He had gotten his bachelor’s degree at Princeton and his medical degree from NYU and was a year or so into his residency at some hospital in New York when he suddenly realized that he didn’t like being a doctor, so he went and nelisted in the Army on a Ranger contract.Last I saw him, he was n the pipeline for OCS, but that was years ago, and I don’t know where he ended up. But, anyway, whenever I hear the “dumb grunt” stereotype brought up, I think of that guy, and it brings a ssmile to my face.

  5. As much as it pains me to say it, one MOS in the Army that is awarded at the lowest ASVAB score is 92R Parachute Rigger. I know of what I speak, and isn’t that scary. Thank goodness S/L Personnel Parachutes are damnably repetitive in nature when packing. The Neanderthal image of “grunts” is indeed just that…..an image not reality.

  6. My ASVAB score was 99 and ended up becoming a 19E. Much of that, however, was the TNARNG was pretty much an Armor state and the other MOSs weren’t of much interest to me. I could hold an intelligent conversation with the other tankers, but the support types were a foreign country to me.

  7. I scored a 99 too, but this was way back around 1970 in anticipation of me getting drafted for Vietnam (which never happened). I think it was called the AFQT at the time. My recollection is there were questions like looking at pictures of a 1) hammer, 2) wrench, 3) duck, and 4) pliers, and being asked which one did not fit.

    Sure hope the test has gotten a little more stringent since then.

    1. I remember the AFQT. I went into the Navy on a reserve enlistment and the only thing I went to the AFEES station was my physical. By the time I was going into the Army for flight school it had become MEPS and I had to take the AFQT since I had not taken it for the Naval Reserve. The NR gave its own test and it wasn’t that easy to get a high score on. What saved me was I was a voracious reader and new a lot about a lot of things. The AFQT wasn’t that hard of a test even when I took it. The FAST was a kettle of a different color, though.

      I can’t remember either my GT test score for the NR or my AFQT for the Army. I took the ASVAB in ’85 as I was going to try to go back to flight school, but it’s just as well I didn’t as I went to the TNARNG’s OCS and crashed and burned because of the accident I suffered in ’83, from which I’m mildly arthritic in the 4 major joints now. It may have had a part to play in causing me to need spinal surgery this last year too. Hard to tell, though.

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