Troubled Army Recruits Become Soldiers, More Troubled; Who’s Responsible?

The Boston Globe reports that 11 percent, more than 1 in 10, of Army recruits this year were given waivers because they have criminal records (more than 6,000 soldiers). Now this is hardly news, the Army has been systematically lowering standards for years—aptitude and fitness levels, health status, moral conduct, down; age and bonuses, up—in fact each year more and more recruits with waivers (and tattoos) join the ranks.

But the coverage is missing the mark somewhat on the full extent of what these lowered standards mean. Partly they mean what the media is focused on, that we have a compromised armed force, that we are putting men with guns in combat situations, where some of our fighters five years ago wouldn’t have been considered fit for such a battle. After all, the Pentagon established standards, whether it be for asthma or high school diplomas, for reasons, reasons they also let slide during Vietnam, under similar circumstances.

Really, is anyone surprised? The Globe criticizes the Pentagon for failing to emphasize the increase in waivers in announcing the “good news” that the army is meeting its recruiting goals. It’s been meeting those goals for years, precisely because of lowered standards.

What no one is talking about is this: 20 percent of recruits with waivers (medical, criminal, moral) means more than a compromised fighting force; it complicates matters back at home immensely. Doctors in veterans’ hospitals across the country are trying to diagnose soldiers who are disturbed, troubled, injured, trying to decide whether their PTSD, their psychological issues, their physical ailments, are combat-related, a call that, if made, means $2500 a month per soldier, for life. A past of mental health issues, a criminal record, pre-exisiting health conditions, these are all up for grabs in the diagnosis. Clouds the burden of war, makes doctors jobs nearly impossible, and make us wonder, who’s responsible once soldiers return home?