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Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Challenges Of Recruiting An All-Volunteer Army

New recruits swear in during the Army Reserve Mega Event in Whitehall, Ohio, June 22, 2013. (Andrew Baba/U.S. Army)

New recruits swear in during the Army Reserve Mega Event in Whitehall, Ohio, June 22, 2013. (Andrew Baba/U.S. Army)

The U.S. Army has been an all-volunteer force for more than 40 years because there is no military draft anymore. That means the service has to attract young men and women to sign up.

And according to the Army’s numbers they’re pretty good at it. The Army has met or exceeded its recruiting goals for each of the last nine years.

But the man who runs the Army recruiting operation, Major General Allen Batschelet, tells Here & Now’s Meghna Chakrabarti that finding qualified candidates in the 17 to 24 age group can be difficult.

“Today about 15 percent are disqualified for obesity, and we think by 2020 that number could go to 50 percent,” he said.

About 70 percent of Americans ages 17 to 24 are not qualified to join the Army. In addition to fitness, the Army also screens for academic qualifications and criminal background.

“The factors that we use to measure and evaluate people to join the Army, increasingly they’re not able to meet those requirements, and it’s very troubling, and the trends are not in a good direction — especially in regards to fitness,” Batschelet said. “Young people are showing up at our doors increasingly unfit or obese and it’s a real problem.”

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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