Recruiting and Waivers

My last job in the Army was as a recruiter. The news for the last 7 years has often looked at the recruiting numbers of the Army and the other services, parsing them to spot trends toward a broken force. Some on the left are hoping to see the numbers fall and like to scare folks by saying that we’ll soon have a draft. Um, no. That’s the last thing the Army or the other branches want. The other theme often bandied about is that the quality of the services are falling. You can expect to see this news touted to support that view.

Let me give you a little background on waivers. Every person who joins the Army must be physically, mentally and morally fit for service. Finding people willing to join the Army was never a problem. Finding people that met those three criteria was the challenge. Something as small as a patch of psoriasis could be enough to disqualify someone physically, and whether they could receive a waiver was always a big question. As a recruiter, I had no influence on the physicians who reviewed the waiver applications. The mental qualifications were a kind of complicated. Everyone who joins the Army has to pass the ASVAB test. That’s the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Many of you may have taken it in high school as a warm up for SATs. What constituted a passing grade depended on your level of education. The test is scored on a curve, and the bottom 32% of the population fail the test. For a long time, people that had only a GED needed to score in the 50 percentile or better just to qualify. Whether we would grant them a waiver depended on how many other GEDs were trying to get in. If my recruiting battalion (which covered all of Indiana and the northern half of Kentucky) had space for 3 GEDs that month, it would generally be first come, first served. The fourth guy (or gal) who showed up with a GED was out of luck. The numbers actually allocated changed from month to month, based on the needs of the Army. This has been relaxed somewhat, both because of the pressing needs of recruitment and because many people now pursue nontraditional high school education, such as home school.

Finally, morally qualified. One of the first questions we asked was “have you ever been arrested, cited, charged, held or convicted of any crime?” I don’t care if charges were dropped, of if it was just a speeding ticket. If you spoke with the police, I needed to know. If there was a criminal history, we’d check it out and go from there. But even if we couldn’t get the prospect to admit to any criminal history, if they wanted to join, we would check police records at the city, county, and state level for every place they lived, worked or went to school for the last three years. Often, applicants would have some sort of record (though they usually told us, first). Let’s take a look at a typical case.

Mike was a high school graduate when I met him. He hadn’t really thought much about the Army, but he quickly became interested in working as a cannon crewmember. He took and passed the ASVAB with no problems. He didn’t appear to have any physical problems and I didn’t think the physical would find any. He did, however admit to a misdemeanor burglary charge. I ran the police checks on Mike and got a surprise. He had been arrested on felony burglary charges. That’s a disqualification right there. The next step was to go to the court and get their records on Mike. Mike’s charge had been reduced to a misdemeanor and he plead no contest. He was “conditionally discharged”, meaning that if he didn’t get into any further trouble with the law for one year, the charge would be dropped. Mike kept his nose clean and in due course, the charge was dropped. But as far as the Army was concerned, he was still disqualified. I had to help Mike apply for a waiver for enlistment. My rule of thumb was to test how bad the guy wanted to join. I would take care of all the Army paperwork, and Mike had to go get everything else, such as letters from his neighbors, teachers, clergy (I told him if he didn’t have any clergy, now would be a good time to find some!) and writing an explanation of why he thought he should be given a second chance.

After collecting all the materials for the waiver I sent it to my company commander. He reviewed it for completeness and accuracy, and to ensure that Mike could qualify for a waiver. My CO then sent it to the Battalion Commander, who had to decide to grant or deny the waiver. In this case, the waiver was granted, Mike went on to join the Army, serve his enlistment, and return home to attend college.

One reason more people need waivers these days is that more people are being charges for crimes that in the past, the police would have given a warning or handed them off to their parents. In addition, many crimes that were formerly misdemeanors are now felonies.

When you read or hear stories about how the Army is full of felons and thugs, take that with a grain of salt.

9 thoughts on “Recruiting and Waivers”

  1. Here is something for you, It is kind of a long story I will cut short to make a point. I came home from work one day early and you guessed it the wify was in bed with some one. I wanted one thing, and that was to throw the Bast**d out the window. While I was chasing him around the bed the wife called the cops. The guy jumped out the window by himself. The cops got there, and one of them was “heh no blood no foul.” His supervisor asked my wife if I hit her, she said no. Then he asked her if I touched her. Yes he put his hands on my shoulder and moved me out of the way.

    I was charged with domestic violence. 4 days later I got a letter saying the DA declined to prosecute.

    Every time I get called to Jury Duty, I have to explain that. Every job interview. Because I touched my wife.

    Bitter, no.
    But single you bet. Do. Not. Want.

    I guess I could not get in now if I tried.

  2. Vmaximus that’s a pretty sucky story.

    On the criminal thing I read of a rather enormous number of your fellow citizens are being charged and jailed as common practice and rather a lot of you are sitting in jail. It’s hard to say what to make of it from the lens over here. Your cops have gone ballistic or US citizens have high criminal tendencies or what?

    How many of these kids need waivers?

  3. Argent,
    I am taking a wild guess but are you from across the pond? If so I am dismayed about the stuff that I here from there. It is stupid here, no denying it. Putting the criminals in jail reduces the crime rate. But pretty soon everyone will be in jail.

  4. Argent, about 30% of all enlistments need either a physical or moral waiver. I don’t have a breakdown on how many of each.

    We do have a reputation of being “the wild west” and there is a lot of crime. Having said that, a lot of Londoners come to the US and are amazed at how polite folks are and that there aren’t a lot of yobs giving them a hard time.

    One reason the cops arrest people is “to have paper on them”. People that go to court for the first time for even serious crimes tend to get a very lenient sentence. If the cops can show pattern of arrests, chances of getting a meaningful sentence are pretty good.

    We do have a HUGE prison population, and it IS disproportionately black. That’s because blacks in America commit serious crimes all out of proportion to their numbers. If you surf a lot of conservative blogs you’ll see that we know its a problem, and we have our thoughts on why that is, but damn if I know how to solve it.

  5. V.

    Yep, that’s a big one, but I doubt it would be permanently disqualifying. The big problem is that congress passed a law that people CONVICTED of domestic violence cannot possess or control a firearm. People in the Army get tossed out for it. In fact, there is a lot of heartburn about the lack of a waiver, because some people will fail to prosecute because they don’t want to impose “the career death penalty” for some very minor incident.

    As you were nol prossed, you don’t have a conviction, but the Army would need to hear from the court that your case had a final disposition.

  6. Man, that’s a real good explanation.

    I heard Dr Chu (UNdersecretary) explain a few weeks ago how the number of medically unqualified has SKYROCKETTED since the 70’s. They looked at the number of people available in age groups, then compared the %’s that could get in, and it was rather astounding.

    Honestly, I only got in because my Dr was cool about it. When I say I was BEGGING him to let me back in to go to A-Stan, I am not exaggerating in the slightest.

  7. TSO,
    There’s a couple of things going on there. One, more people are diagnosed now, because more people get treatment. Look at the massive growth in the health care industry. So now people have to fess up to things that in the past, they wouldn’t even know they had.

    Two, the Army is somewhat pickier today about who they take, partly because they can be, partly because there’s no point in enlisting them if they can’t finish their first term, and partly because the government wants to minimize the impact on the VA having to care for folks who had preexisting conditions, or conditions that were worsened by service.

    After 9-11, I spoke to a recruiter about coming back. He laughed.

  8. I am across the pond but the other way. In case it’s not known I’m Aussie not a er a subject of uhm our glorious Motherland 😀

    I’d agree more people go and see the doctor now. In the old days most men here would almost have to be terminal before bothering to see a doctor.

  9. Argent,
    If for any reason I decide to leave this great country, (not likely) I have thought that short of starting my own country on some island in the Caribbean, (or South Pacific) I would love to go to Australia. Except for the guns thing. (when are you going to fix that?)
    High on my list of things to do, is to fish the great barrier reef. I am planning on it in the next 5 (hopefully less) years. What general part of the country do you live? I would love to go to Perth, for some reason I am fascinated with it. Of course Sidney and perhaps Tasmania are obvious stops.
    Both sets of my grandparents came here from England and Scotland in the 1916 and 1919.

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