If you’re a loser – you can join the military!
By John D. Turner
1 Nov 2006

“You know education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. And if you don’t you get stuck in Iraq.” -- John Kerry, speaking at a Democrat rally, 30 Oct 2006

I had intended to write an article concerning the embarrassment Mexican officials say the United States is supposed to be feeling because we have to build a fence to keep their citizens from illegally leaving their country to come to ours. I guess we are supposed to be embarrassed that we can provide them jobs – something that seems to be beyond Vicente Fox and his crew. Then John Kerry unloads another of his usual ill-informed verbal barrages, and I find myself writing about that instead. Oh well, another time, Mr. Fox. I haven’t forgotten you…

So lets see if I have this straight. People who are in Iraq are those who didn’t study hard, didn’t do their homework, and just aren’t doing well because they aren’t, well, you know, very smart. If they were, they wouldn’t be “stuck in Iraq”.

I assume he was talking about military personnel, since he used that word “stuck”, implying no choice in the matter. Since civilians who work in Iraq can, in theory anyway, leave whenever they like, he must be referring to those poor benighted knuckle-draggers who just couldn’t make it in academia or the fast-paced world of business and so were forced by circumstance to join the military or starve.

So, if you’re a loser – you can join the military!

Perhaps that’s how Mr. Kerry ended up stuck in Vietnam. But no, looking back we see that Mr. Kerry “did his homework”. Utilizing the “three Purple Hearts and you’re out” rule, we see that Mr. Kerry “did well”, and “unstuck” himself as fast as he could, setting himself up for a long and distinguished political career characterized by being on all sides of every issue. By serving in the military and serving as a war protester after his discharge, Mr. Kerry was, once again, on both sides of the issue. He is able to claim, as he has on so many issues, that he “fought for the war before he fought against it.”

Yes, John Kerry served in the military, and so he understands those in the military as those who have never served cannot. And he knows that most of those who serve do so because they just aren’t, you know, civilian material. I mean, if they could make it in the civilian world, then why would they go into the military? Kind of makes you wonder exactly what he thought of those who served under him in Vietnam, doesn’t it?

You’d better be good, or the boogyman will get you!

You’d better study hard, or else you might get stuck in Iraq!

Back in 1992, we had an election for President; George H. W. Bush against William Jefferson Clinton. During that election, Mr. Bush made some comments concerning a laser scanner at a grocery store, which was immediately picked up on by Mr. Clinton’s campaign as evidence of how “out of touch” Mr. Bush was with the common person; something as commonplace as a laser scanner at a checkout line was “remarkable” to Mr. Bush. He just didn’t live like other people, and so couldn’t relate, as Mr. Clinton, who “felt their pain” could. Had anyone really bothered to stop and think about it, it is highly unlikely that any President of the United States has gone grocery shopping for himself in recent memory. Be that as it may, that perception of Mr. Bush being “out of touch” has been cited as a big factor in his loss at the polls in 1992.

I would submit that Mr. Kerry, the man who would be Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, is similarly out of touch when it comes to the military he would like to command.

Far from being a collection of ill-educated misfits who joined the military because they were too stupid to be able to do anything else, today’s military is the most highly educated and highly motivated military in the history of our county. They have to be. Our military today, across the board, is a high-tech force. Dumb people can’t make it in today’s Armed Forces.

First off, there is no draft, despite Mr. Kerry’s scare tactics on college campuses during the 2004 elections and since; there also is no desire on the part of the Pentagon to re-institute one. Oh the mechanism to do so is in place, to be sure. Prudence dictates that we have the ability to have a draft should the need arise. Young men are still required to register when they turn 18. And should it ever come to the type of fight we had during WW II, where the full resources of the country were mobilized, we might well have a draft again. But we aren’t at that point. Indeed, an outside observer would be hard-pressed to tell we are at war at all.

There is no draft, there are no student deferments; making bad grades and flunking out of college may be bad for your future career, but it won’t land you in the military with a “go directly to Iraq, do not pass go, do not collect $200 card.” We are an all volunteer force; a professional military. If you don’t want to join, we don’t want you.

But we are at war, and have been since September 11, 2001. We have been in Iraq for three years. With regard to intelligence, I will agree with Mr. Kerry on one point. Anyone who volunteers to come into the military today, without a reasonable expectation that they will end up in Iraq at least once is indeed, pretty dumb.

So how hard is it to get into the military today? From Mr. Kerry’s comments, one would think that the military, particularly the Army, must be taking anyone they can find. I would expect that the criminal justice system might be fertile soil for recruiters. They could offer pimps, murderers and rapists a choice; join the Army or go to jail. Such would fit right in with his other comments about our soldiers terrorizing innocent Iraqis in the dead of night.

Then there are all those folks who can’t seem to get a job no matter what. You know - the ones who can’t get welfare anymore because they have exhausted their benefits and have no where else to turn? Thank goodness for the military! They’ll take anyone!

In reality though, getting into the military is far from easy. Despite the plethora of imagined rights abounding in our society today, there is no “right” to join the armed forces. Thus, not everyone who wishes to join is accepted. The military “discriminates” based on a variety of factors. For an excellent run-down on many of these, check out this article on about.com. Since Mr. Kerry’s remarks pertained to education, we will limit the scope of this article to that single topic.

Here are the current demographic statistics for the Air Force. You will note that 99.9 percent of Air Force enlistees have high school diplomas; while 73.3 percent have some college credit as well. 16.2 percent have an Associates degree, 4.7 percent have a Bachelors degree, and 0.7 percent have earned a Masters. We even have a few with Doctorates! Being Air Force, I am familiar with where to find Air Force stats. Similar stats are published for all branches of the service; locating them is left as an exercise to the reader.

While having a high school diploma is pretty much a requirement to get into the Air Force (you are more likely to be struck by lightening than to get into the Air Force without one), it is not the only criteria. You must also score high enough on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test (AFQT) and meet a whole host of other requirements; requirements that are getting harder and harder for the average American to meet. For example, you must be physically fit. You can’t have any visible tattoos or body modifications. You can’t have any drug or alcohol problems. If you have ever been addicted to a substance, or trafficked in one, you are ineligible for enlistment. You can’t have any “moral” problems; a criminal record, including “sealed” or “expunged” offences can bar you from enlistment. Enlistment as an alternative to criminal prosecution, indictment, incarceration, parole, probation, or other punitive sentence is forbidden. Those days are long gone. You can’t have any financial issues. You can’t be a single parent. And there are others.

On the officer side of the house, 99.9% of Air Force officers have at least a bachelor’s degree. It’s a requirement for commissioning. Additionally, nearly 50% have advanced degrees; 39.4 percent have a Masters degree, 8.5 percent have Professional degrees, and 1.3 percent possess a doctorate degree. I know of some who have more than one Masters degree. I myself have two Associates, a Bachelor’s in Engineering, and a Master’s in Computer Science.

Now education level isn’t everything. Having a degree doesn’t necessarily make you smart. (See Mr. Kerry as an example). However it does tend to make you a more marketable commodity in the civilian job market than being a high school drop out. In general, this means that you most likely have other options for employment besides the military.

Why is the military so insistent today that its recruits be well-educated? Over the years, the military has discovered that while being a high school graduate does not guarantee that a person will be trainable, those without high school diplomas tend to be less trainable than those who have one. Dropouts also tend to have more discipline problems and tend to be discharged early more frequently than those who have high school diplomas and who score well on the AFQT.

With today’s high-tech military placing more training demands on its troops than ever before, trainability is a huge issue, as is retention. It costs a lot to train someone, so once they are trained, we want to keep them as long as we can. Equipment can be replaced. People are our greatest resource.

Today’s military stresses education. That’s why so many Air Force enlistees have college credits. And while it is harder today to work in the college classes and complete the degree program with frequent TDYs and deployments, the Air Force does its best to help its members out when it comes to getting an education. The Air Force even has an accredited degree program for enlisted members called Community College of the Air Force that awards Associate degrees in many areas of study. There is tuition assistance, currently 100% for qualified degree programs through the Masters level. And the prevalence of on-line classes makes it easier than ever to accommodate the military's busy schedule, making it possible to complete classes even when deployed in Iraq.

So why do people continue to volunteer, even though they don’t have to, and we are at war? Education, training, and even patriotism, as hard as it is for some to believe. A sense of belonging to something greater than yourself. A desire to serve your country. A sense of duty. Family tradition. The reasons are many; starvation rarely if ever figures into the equation, and with an unemployment rate currently at 4.6%, anyone who can’t find a job somewhere in the country simply isn’t trying hard enough.

Bottom line: If you are a loser, it is extremely difficult to find a place for you in today’s military. If by some chance you are a loser and have managed to get into the military and are still a loser, you have no one to blame but yourself.

As for Senator Kerry’s latest dissing of those who proudly wear the uniform of this country, what else is new? And why should he care? With all the drawdowns, military personnel comprise an even smaller percentage of the population than ever before. Their voting strength is distributed across the country, and most don’t vote Democrat anyway. Many have to vote absentee, and every election cycle there is a concerted effort by Democrats to have their ballets thrown out before they can be opened. And if the Democrats do take office? Well, the military will be under their orders anyway.

President Bush and many others have called on Senator Kerry to apologize for his comment. Senator Kerry insists that he was dissing the President, not the troops. He says that his remark was merely a poorly stated joke aimed at Mr. Bush. And he stands by his statement.

In my opinion, the joke here is Mr. Kerry, who is a sorry excuse for a Senator, and would be even a sorrier excuse for a Commander-in-Chief. When I look at what we might have been stuck with two years ago, it makes what we have now, warts and all, much more palatable. It's a good thing for Mr. Kerry that he studied hard, did his homework, and married a rich heiress; he certainly has no future as a stand-up comic.