June 20, 2008
The U.S. Marine Corps wants to know if potential recruits have used
marijuana even once. If they have, the recruit must get special
permission (a "moral waiver") to get in. Last year, about half the
37,000 new recruits needed such moral waivers, mostly for the one
time use of weed. This is pretty intense, but not that unusual. The
recruiters have become much better of determining who's just been
naughty, and who is beyond redemption when it comes to drug use.
As a result, the U.S. military, particularly the army and marines, no
longer turns down recruits who have criminal records. For the last
sixty years, recruiters turned down most recruits with a criminal
record. The reason was that, since an army depended on discipline to
function, anyone who broke the law had already demonstrated problems
with following orders. Before September 11, 2001, the U.S. Army found
that 27 percent of recruits with criminal records (and given a "moral
waiver" to enlist), didn't finish their enlistment because of
misconduct (refusing to obey orders, or just a bad attitude). This
was twice the rate of troops who did not need a moral waiver. Back
then, less than four percent of recruits got moral waivers. That
usually required references from teachers, clergy or employers
attesting to how the applicant had shaped up, and was worthy of
acceptance. But since 2004, the percentage of recruit getting in with
moral waivers has tripled to 13 percent. Yet there has not been a
noticeable decline in troops quality. There is still a higher
percentage of moral waiver recruits getting discharged early, but not
double the rate of those without moral waivers.
All the services have been looking at potential recruits more
carefully, and experimenting with new screening and training methods.
This, in turn, has led to more careful study of exactly how well, or
poorly, recruits do during their military service. These new methods
have improved the quality of troops, while also expanding the number
of potential recruits.