Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Are you a loser? Join the Army!

WASHINGTON — Struggling to boost it ranks in wartime, the Army has sharply increased the number of recruits who would normally be barred because of criminal misconduct or alcohol and illegal drug problems, again raising concerns that the Army is lowering its standards to make recruiting goals.

Last year, almost 1 in 6 Army recruits had a problem in their background that would have disqualified them from military service. In order to accept them, the Army granted special exceptions, known as recruiting waivers.

Recruits with medical problems made up the largest category of those given waivers. But the largest increase was among recruits with a history of either criminal conduct or drug and alcohol problems, according to data provided by the Army.

There were 737 waivers for alcohol and illegal drugs, up from 650 the previous year, which also reversed at least a four-year trend of declines in that category. Smith said those waivers were for recruits who tested positive for amphetamines, marijuana or cocaine during recruit processing. A waiver is required to let the recruit wait 45 days before taking another test.

Smith denied that the increase in waivers reflected a lowering of standards by the Army or difficulties in meeting recruiting goals. The Army has met its monthly goals for the last eight months, the service said.

There was a significant increase in the number of recruits with what the Army terms 'serious criminal misconduct' in their background. That category includes aggravated assault, robbery, vehicular manslaughter, receiving stolen property and making terrorist threats (emph mine), said Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army Recruiting Command at Ft. Knox, Ky."

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