The economy isn't strong and education is more expensive, so many turn to the military for a secure foundation. However, the U.S. military has been turning down applicants in droves, and it's not just because of the drawdown. Although the U.S. is not committing as many forces overseas as it was a few years ago, there are a few other reasons for the large numbers of applicants who aren't making the cut.
According to the Washington Times, the military currently only accepts roughly 20% of walk-in applicants. Army Sgt. 1st Class Terrence Hoard reportedly told the Kansas City Star that he used to need to sign on 16-20 soldiers every month, and now he can get away with 10-12. According to the Kansas City Star, four out of five adults are turned down by the military every year. To make matters more difficult for potential future applicants, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel intends to decrease the number of active duty service members from 520,000 to 490,000.
According to an article by NBC, another cause of the rise in rejections is that joining the military is simply becoming more competitive. Sgt. 1st Class Richard Teunis, a recruiter for the Army, claims that "instead of being able to talk to 90-percent of the population, you could only talk to 50 percent or maybe less than that." The caliber of each applicant has increased, and a GED is no longer enough to enter the military. If individuals do not have a high school diploma, they are encouraged to obtain about a semester's-worth of college credits before reapplying.
However, the overall most common cause for rejection is simple: obesity. According to a 2009 report from Mission: Readiness, "27 percent of young Americans are too overweight to join the military." Not all of them have attempted to join of course, but the pool from which the military may draw upon for recruits is nearly 30% smaller due to obesity. Air Force Brigadier General Jeff Lawson commented on the issue: "I know people who spent an extra six weeks in basic training while we ran them through a fat farm to lose the weight. Those don't exist anymore. You're either qualified to come in or you're not. We do not rehabilitate people anymore."
While the military of the past decade may have been a good place for young people to turn for a variety of reasons, the trends show that applicants should be much more judicious in planning out their application to enlist in the U.S. military.