Just a couple of weeks after the Army reneged on its pledge to accept recruits without high school diplomas; they came up with another scheme to meet their already low recruitment goals.

Chowing down in the field. Image Credit: David Furst/AFP Photo

On June 29th, I wrote about how the Army was miserably failing to meet its recruitment goals, so they dropped the educational requirements necessitating a GED or high school diploma to join. All you had to do was score 50 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). It’s kind of like an SAT for the military, kind of. I thought one catch was kind of dumb; the recruits without a GED or high school diploma had to score a 50 or better on the test to be accepted. That means 50% of the people who took the test did worse on it than they did. If you had a high school diploma, you only needed to score 31 or better to be welcomed into the service.

I was even mentoring a young man who really wanted to join the Army but didn’t have the required educational credentials. He was initially excited, but his hopes were dashed when the Army abruptly discontinued the program about ten days after it was first offered. He was crushed.

As a point of reference, the Army was only at 40% of its recruiting goals when it started that program. Remember, the fiscal year begins October 1st, so they must make up that 60% shortfall by September 30th. And they are trying to man the smallest Army we’ve had since the beginning of World War II.

Hats off to Luis Enrique Pinto, Jr, who lost over 100 pounds so he could join the Army. He enlisted as a 14E, responsible for operating and maintaining Patriot Missile Systems, and received a $16K sign-on bonus.

Fast forward (just a bit) to July 8th, when I wrote about how the Army abruptly put the brakes on the program. An urgent email came down from above. It 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.”

No exceptions. The government giveth, and the government taketh away. No real reason was given, but some “unnamed official” babbled something about the termination having “more to do with ensuring that we set the recruits…up for success” rather than “perception of a lowered standard” to join.

After I read this double-speak, I knew they’d be starting up some new program again in a few weeks. They had to; they are still nowhere near their recruiting goals. And today, God bless their hearts; they did.

In August, the Army is set to launch two pilot programs at Fort Jackson. One is for potential recruits usually too overweight to join, and the other is for those who did not score high enough on the ASVAB to enlist. Recruits who exceed body fat allowances by as much as 6% will be placed into a “special training program” for up to three months. The special training will involve (no surprise here) dietary guidance and exercise.

Every three weeks, recruits in this program will monitor their progress, and if at the end of 90 days they can get to within 2%  of the original body fat allowance, they’ll move on to basic training.

The Academic boot camp is 90 days in duration as well and is for potential enlistees who score between 21 and 30 on the ASVAB. The Army currently requires at least a score of 31 on the test to join.

It’s not all about guns and fun; the military requires a fair amount of book learnin’, too, to be successful. Image Credit: pearsonaccelerated.com

During the ASVAB prep camp, recruits will be instructed on basic literacy, high school math, and logic puzzles. In addition, they’ll have the opportunity to retake the test every three weeks as part of the program.

The programs are projected to cost the service about $4 million over the next year and are only for recruits who otherwise qualify. Those with a questionable health exam, substance abuse problems, or brushes with the law may still have some issues. Right now, potential soldiers can only attend one of the special tracks. If they are more than 6% over the maximum allowable body fat standard and score below 31 on the ASVAB, they are SOL (seriously out of luck).

If an enlistee has low test scores (42-49) and is more than 6% over the fat standard, they may opt to do both camps, but the academic portion would not be a requirement. Remember, the higher your score on the ASVAB, the more potential jobs it opens up to you. As of this writing, the Army has identified up to 2,000 potential recruits who may benefit from these programs.

So, if you’ve ever wanted to wear Army green, now may be your time. They are still offering up to a $50,000 enlistment bonus and allowing recruits to pick their first duty station of choice. But, keep in mind, newbies, picking doesn’t necessarily mean getting. And you’re still gonna need your high school diploma or GED unless they change things again.