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Who's Fit for Duty Now?

A story in Wednesday’s Army Times reports that 75 percent of 17-24 year olds are ineligible to serve because they can’t meet basic standards. Most are overweight, don’t meet educational requirements, or have had run-ins with the law.

Former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Shalikashvili said the problem is an unprecedented one that has serious implications for national security:

“‘We’ve never had this problem of young people being obese like we have today. We should be concerned about how this will impact this overstretched Army and its ability to recruit.'”

The military is so concerned, dozens of retired top brass and civilian Pentagon officials have formed a group (Mission Readiness: Military Leaders for Kids) to call for immediate action to improve the quality of the recruitment pool.

Yet under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” thousands of patriots – not only willing but qualified to serve – have been fired because they are gay or lesbian. It makes no sense. The young people who meet the very standards the military needs are being kicked out every day, even though sexual orientation has nothing to do with getting the job done. Up to two service members are discharged every day under DADT. Another 4,000 refuse to join or re-enlist each year because of this bad law.

Shalikashvili, who once defended DADT, now supports open service and agrees that DADT is a further drain on an applicant pool in desperate need of young people who are fit for duty.