Bar Drop

If you ever were on the fence about joining the Army and your educational background is a little weak, now is the time to pounce. For years, the Army has required a high school diploma or GED to be accepted into the service. One of the finest soldiers I know, a man who rose through the enlisted ranks to become Command Sergeant Major of a Special Forces Group, is fond of telling people how he dropped out of high school in the tenth grade to join the Army. Of course, this was in 1970, times were different back then, and it’s not something he recommends…but he did it.

“What’s that? They’re offering a $50,000 sign-up bonus now? Damn! I got in too soon.”  Image Credit: Sgt. Effie Mahugh

Last week, the US Army announced that they no longer require a high school diploma or GED to enlist in the service. This is one of the most significant recruiting changes in recent years. It’s right up there with the $50K sign-on bonus.

Why the sudden change? The Army has achieved only 40% of its recruitment goals this year. To say they are struggling to meet their numbers would be an understatement. Things are so bad that the Department of Defense plans to reduce the total force size because its original predictions were unrealistic. I wrote about this in April when I noted that current recruiting difficulties would shrink the US Army to Pre-WWII size. Of course, it doesn’t help matters that unemployment rates are low, the civilian job market is hot, and it seems wages keep rising, even for entry-level jobs.

The Applicant Pool Has Been Shrinking for Years

It’s not just education that has kept potential recruits out of uniform. Every year, fewer and fewer potential applicants qualify for military service. Obesity, criminal records, and mental health issues cull the pool of potential warfighters. In 1973 the draft law expired in the United States, and Congress refused to extend it. Since then, we’ve had an all-volunteer military and rely on a constant stream of recruits each year.