June 04, 2009
By Gina Morton
The Daily Item
Many young people interested in enlisting in the military are turned
away for various reasons for lack of education, for being
physically unfit, or for having a criminal background but not the
75 percent cited by a Pentagon report, Valley recruiters said.
Yet, out of five to six calls she receives a day from those
interested, about one is eligible to come in for a sit-down
discussion, Army Staff Sgt. Stephanie Mitchley said Wednesday from
her office in Hummels Wharf.
"Only 10 percent of the population in the United States is qualified
to enlist," Mitchley said, "and 1 to 2 percent actually do."
Retired military leaders from across Pennsylvania held a news
conference at the state Capitol Wednesday, calling for increased
investment in early childhood education to improve school success and
preserve military readiness for the future. Officials said more and
more people ages 17 to 24 are being turned down for enlistment.
There are three focus areas for interested individuals, Mitchley
said: moral, mental and physical.
Moral and mental seem to be the biggest problem areas.
"(The problem) is local," Air Force Staff Sgt. Chad Brigner said
Wednesday from his office in Hummels Wharf. "Is it prevalent? Not in
my eyes. I haven't turned away that many people. From what I've seen
it's not that extreme."
Brigner said there are a lot of people that are able to be helped,
whether it's being directed to a different branch or obtaining
While he said he's turned down people from all three areas, the legal
issues are the worst because those can't be fixed.
"People can lose weight, if there's no schooling, they can get
credits," he said. "If they have a felony or major law (issue), it's
"Kids these days are always in trouble," she said. "They have a lot
of law violations."
She added, though, that many also have a great deal of trouble with
the mental part. A majority of interested young people can't pass the
basic Algebra 2, or don't pass the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude
Battery test, which is like the military SATs.
To help those having trouble with the educational portion, Mitchley
said the Army started a program called "March to Success" which
tutors individuals on math and English. There is a great success
rate, she said, of three out of four completing the program.
In Pennsylvania, one in five students fail to finish high school on
time or drop out entirely, and retired generals believe the
investment in early childhood education would increase the number of
young Americans who graduate and qualify to serve.
Both Mitchley and Brigner agreed that reaching students at younger
ages would make it easier to remind those with plans of enlisting the
importance of their younger years.
"I'd tell those interested to focus on school, stay in school, avoid
drugs and stay out of trouble," Brigner said. "If you live a good
life you're qualified for anything you want to do in the future."
Mitchley agreed that speaking to students at a younger age would help
lower the number of those turned away. She wishes the Army would have
the opportunity to enter schools and talk to students of freshman and
"We could give them the ASVAP test and let them know what the
military provides. We have every job in the civilian economy," she
said. "... We're the fighting force of America and need to be
mentally, morally and physically capable."
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