Well, the Army giveth and the Army taketh away.
Late last month, I reported on how the Army decided to remove their requirement for a high school diploma or GED to enlist. They were sitting at 40% of their year recruitment goals and were running out of ways to entice potential recruits. If a bonus of up to $50,000 isn’t going to get the job done, it’s time to put on the old thinking cap.
That brainstorming of the brass came up with the idea of removing the educational barrier to enlistment. It used to be that you had to be a high school graduate or have your GED to become a soldier. For a short while there, that was not the case. The only catch was that if you didn’t have a diploma or GED, you had to score at least 50 on the ASVAB. That’s considerably higher than the minimum of 31 that the grads had to achieve.
Then a whole week after making that announcement, the Army changed its collective mind. An urgent email came down from above (along with a loud vinyl record scratch sound effect), immediately suspending the program.
The message read in part,
“The 111 Non-Grad (NA) enlistment program has been suspended. Those…who have enlisted are authorized to ship [to training],” the email said. “Any other [non-grads] projected for enlistment today are authorized to enlist, but all other projection MUST be cancelled immediately. No exceptions are authorized.”
It just so happens that I am mentoring a young man who very much wants to join the armed services but, for multiple reasons, did not meet the old (and now reinstated) educational requirements. We had scheduled an ASVAB exam with a local recruiter, who had to call and cancel. Unfortunately, this kid was heartbroken, and I didn’t really have any encouraging words for him. Part of the reason he never tried to get his GED and join earlier was, “I saw how they dicked you over before and didn’t want that to happen to me.” Sorry buddy, I don’t know what to say. I understand that this kind of “bait and switch” isn’t going to have potential recruits beating down the recruiter’s doors anytime soon.
An Army spokesperson has since made an announcement stating that the program has indeed been suspended but that the education waivers are within the service’s authorities and could be reinstated in the future. No sh*t. America, as a former soldier, I apologize to you for how jacked up my branch has become. It wasn’t always like this, and one day, I hope they’ll get their heads screwed on straight.
The “official” went on to say that the suspension had “more to do with ensuring that we set the recruits…up for success” rather than “perception of a lowered standard” to join. That’s code for “We didn’t really think this thing through.” Actually, it’s not even code; quoting that same official, “the most important thing is to ensure it’s the right option, and we take the time to think through the right options to ensure everybody has the chance to be successful.”
I agree with this. They should do all possible to ensure new recruits’ success and not just conduct some kind of “body grab” to boost their numbers. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been made public how many applicants were able to slip in before the Army slammed the window shut on the waived educational requirements.