Letters to the Editor

Re: “Military Lowers Standards” Feb. 21

Last Thursday I opened the copy of The Torch that I received in the mail and thumbed through it as I usually do, just browsing at each page at first. As I flipped through the pages I came across the Op-Ed (and yes I know what Op-Ed means unlike some members of the University who will remain nameless) section and my jaw actually dropped as I stared at a cartoon accompanying a piece regarding admission standards into the military.

The cartoon depicted a soldier split in half. One half of the soldier showed him in uniform holding a waving American flag; the other side showed him in prison garb, attached to a ball and chain and his portion of the flag tattered and torn. I felt compelled to read this piece immediately.

As I started to read I tried to remove my bias. I’m a member of the military and I tried to forget this as I read on. I tried to forget every person I had ever met in uniform. I tried to forget every experience I had, and the pride in my service. I wanted to try and understand the point and perspective your writer was trying to display. Then I read it. The writer referenced The New York Crimes (quoted from an earlier volume of The Torch).

“Surely a piece that makes such a dramatic and bold statement has more than one reference to stand upon,” I thought to myself, “surely that only reference isn’t the “New York Crimes?!”
Apparently I was wrong.

Well, Mr. Staley, here are the facts. Currently three branches of the military, the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Air Force are overmanned. This means that they actually have more people enlisted in their ranks than Congress has allotted. For this reason they actually have a waiting list to go through their respective bootcamps and hand pick who gets on these lists. Persons with waivers are not high on these lists. In fact, it takes a lot of time to process these waivers due to the extensive background checks, interviews, and tests that are required before a waiver is granted, yet alone processed.

In an article last week by The Northwest Herald, the Pentagon reports that more than three quarters of the “moral waivers” (waivers granted to convicted criminals) were granted to “minor crimes and misdemeanors.” The crimes were described as ranging from “writing a bad check to petty theft.”

Army and Defense Department officials have also released statements saying that over two-thirds of the waivers that were granted by the Marines was for drug use, because they- unlike other services- require a new waiver if someone has been convicted even once for marijuana use.

Also according to the Defense Department reports, the number of recruits who needed a waiver for admission, any time of waiver, is up twenty percent since 2003. This includes age waivers, waivers for traffic offenses, minor non-traffic offenses, and the new drug policies set by the Marines. This twenty percent is a much more accurate number than the skewed sixty-five percent reference you use in your piece, but hey, sixty-five is much more impressive of a number, it probably makes the article seem like a bigger deal than it is.

So let’s recap… basically you wrote an opinion piece based on an article by a liberal newspaper that doesn’t quite lay out the facts as they truly are. Let’s all forget about the true fact that the majority of these waivers were for small petty incidences (which most likely happened in the person’s adolescence, and we all know kids never make any mistakes). Instead, let’s make a big deal over an increase in waivers that have been routinely granted for years and that were affected due to a change making the Marines drug policy stricter.

Waivers to felons are also only an option if the person has requested to the state, and been approved, to have his rights restored. Hundreds of thousands of people in America have had their rights restored and work blue-collar as well as white-collar jobs.

According to Military.com, the chances of attrition are higher for those soldiers who are actually accepted into the military on a waiver (for any reason) than those admitted without a waiver. In other words, a person may make it to bootcamp on waivers, but you can be assured that no one is actually walking out of their unless their drill instructors have 100% confidence in them. I can attest to this personally. My drill instructors eliminated a total of 12 of the 40 recruits in my bootcamp company.

Now, assume that a person is actually admitted to bootcamp on a waiver. If this recruit survives being eliminated at bootcamp, the military does not hand just lay a “fully automatic assault rifle” into his hands. That recruit then goes through intensive weapons training and combat training, including rules of engagement. In other words, after all this training, we should “be surprised when things go wrong,” as opposed to Mr. Staley’s opinion piece.

In regards to the minimum score on the aptitude test, the “unofficial minimum” was around 17. There is not a large gap below that 17 minimum limit, and there are not a lot of people who fall into that gap. Even so, the aptitude test is only a placement and qualification test to help show what job you are able to chose from. It is not a measure of intelligence or common sense. Those scoring lower on the ASVAB test simply do not get to chose what job they want in the military, and are barred from more technical positions. Most branches have support programs in place for helping people learn their roles and jobs.

Why should a person of sound mind and body be banned from serving his or her country because they do not have the technical knowledge that others have? In a day and age where politicians would rather spend their time using issues such as the war to make jokes (John Kerry) rather than actually lead our country, why should we penalize someone who wants to serve?

As I stood there reading this piece (I almost slipped and referred to it as an article) appalled, my eyes hovered over Mr. Staley’s final remarks in which he refers to the military as “a rogue gallery of hoodlums and misfits.” I shook my head in disbelief. I had once prided myself in the fact that the writers of The Torch had published fair, educated, and informed pieces. Unfortunately, this piece seems to fall into the “dissemination of uninformed opinion in the ironically labeled Information Age”

Joshua Massel
Former Student
Petty Officer in the US Coast Guard