Army Shuns 75 Percent of Age Eligible Recruits

According to a shocking Associated Press report, the United States military is discriminating in recruiting against a whopping 75 percent of those of eligible age.

Uncle Sam wants YOU, that famous Army recruiting poster says. But does he really? Not if you’re a Ritalin-taking, overweight, Generation Y couch potato — or some combination of the above. As for that fashionable “body art” that the military still calls a tattoo, having one is grounds for rejection, too.

With U.S. casualties rising in wars overseas and more opportunities in the civilian work force from an improved U.S. economy, many young people are shunning a career in the armed forces. But recruiting is still a two-way street — and the military, too, doesn’t want most people in this prime recruiting age group of 17 to 24. Of some 32 million Americans now in this group, the Army deems the vast majority too obese, too uneducated, too flawed in some way, according to its estimates for the current budget year.

Of course, it makes perfect sense for the military–a business that involves trusting people with firearms, explosives, tanks, and other lethal equipment–to shun the mentally unstable, the stupid, and the lazy. The tatoo exclusion is rather silly, especially since a large portion of NCOs have traditionally had them, although I presume this remains waiverable for those with art that would be covered by the uniform.

Related posts below the fold.


Elsewhere: James Joyner, “Backdoor Draft?” TCS, 11 January 2005.

OTB: Military Personnel, General

OTB: Military Recruiting


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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. just me says:

    And the argument is it would be a better army, if these people were accepted? (although I agree the tatoo thing doesn’t say much about a person’s capability to perform their job well).

    The funny thing is if the military was shunning all those standards and taking anyone, how much you want to bet there would be an article all about the Army compromising its standards in desperation for new recruits.

  2. Strate says:

    The Tattoo policy was greatly over exaggerated by the quoted article. The Air Force Policy, which is similar to the Army’s, is that a tattoo must not cover more than 25% of the exposed body area, and must not be obscene in nature. And even this policy is typically waived for new recruits.

  3. Herb says:

    It sure is reassuring to know that some overweight, couch potato army reject is building my next car or refrigerator, or house, or making the medications I take. That’s just the kind of individuals our countries corporations are looking for to fill their low paying jobs.

    It’s kind of funny in a way that the Army don’t want these guys and they are usually made out to be the nations dumping ground for the low end of society.

  4. LJD says:

    My experience is that the tattoo policy covers things that are racist or offensive in nature, or that which is visible while wearing the class b uniform.

    The doc looks you over at MEPS, and if the tattoos are within the guidelines, no waiver is required.

  5. CWM says:

    The tat policy goes a little further. A very large problem in the military is that of street gang members enlisting. Easily identifiable gang tattoos are a starting point for exclusion in that respect.

    Posting gang members in charge of an armory scares the crap out of me a lot more than fat kids who can barely hold a rifle (I’d prefer neither, frankly).

  6. Yhoi says:

    My experience is that the tattoo policy covers things that are racist or offensive in nature, or that which is visible while wearing the class b uniform.

    If Klinger had known about this policy, it would have saved him a whole lotta time and hassle running around in drag trying to get a Section 8!

    If the Army is really waiving the the tatoo policy, the next thing you know they will be waiving the dont ask/dont tell policy as well and then the nation will be in REAL trouble!

  7. Ray says:

    oh, don’t forget also the sexual orientation — one could be highly educated, well-build and most smart and responsible person ever… but… attracted to the wrong sex and voila, NOT QUALIFIED…

  8. LJD says:

    I suppose it was only a matter of time before this became a ‘gay’ issue (as with everything else). When will you PCers quit driving my country into the ground?

    This is all about standards- that’s it. Big surprise, the Army has them and enforces them. I guess that goes against just about everything you see on the MSM.

  9. Sneem says:

    I spent a long time in the Army. An NCO once told me that the difference between the Army and civilians was that the Army had standards. You only have to be born to be a civilian. When people can’t meet the Army standards, they go back to where they came from. Civilians. I’m glad to see the standards are still being kept.