shape up

According to General William S. Wallace, head of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, 72% of today’s age eligible youth are unfit to serve in the military because they don’t meet “minimum standards on education, character and health”. Wallace says we either have to “lower the “military admission standards or raise the health and education standards for our young people”. To Wallace the choice is clear and wants to “declare war on poor education, lack of fitness and poor health”.

The article I read by Gen. Wallace goes into detail about how the issues of education, health and fitness might be addressed. Other than his initial statement of the problem I couldn’t find the word “character” or any other related word mentioned again; and that caused me to think about the definition of “character” and how you go about obtaining it.

I don’t believe being healthy or educated automatically leads to having character.

How do you define ‘character’? Does it mean something different for the military? Gen. Wallace wasn’t saying.

The first thing I came up with were the twelve points I learned as a Boy Scout in ‘The Scout Law’. But it’s probably not that simple.

Last year I visited a former neighborhood playmate, high school classmate and college age drinking buddy I’ve stayed in contact with. He and his wife are both large framed people and they raised a pair of twin sons who excelled in high school football and wrestling, earning individual and team state championships along the way. I noticed a photo in their living room taken when their sons were seniors where the entire football team was shirtless. Without exception, every one of those boys appeared to be in top physical condition, excessively so when compared to photos taken of the high school football team (same school) when their father and I were seniors. They looked like they spent a lot of time weight-training and not a single one of them looked physically unfit in any way.

Recently I came across a photo taken aboard a U.S. Navy ship of showing a group of sailors after a swim party. Once again they all looked like they spent a lot of time working out to the point of having identical builds. The photo reminded me of a similar shot in my father’s collection of photographs taken aboard his ship during World War Two. Quite a contrast. In dad’s photo there is a wide range of physiques, not all of which I would describe as “fit”.

Athletic programs and the military can improve someone’s fitness, but I wonder how temporary it is.


About Marcus

Who me? Introverted, neurotic, self-absorbed, increasingly cynical observer of human nature and part time social critic in hiding. Most of my life spent avoiding growing up. The naive idealistic passions of youth have evolved into the eclectic eccentricities of adulthood. Northeast Florida small-town native, related to people I can't relate to. Simultaneously my own best friend and worst enemy. Politically and spiritually unaffiliated, my personal ideologies put me all over the map or off it completely.
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2 Responses to shape up

  1. negardm says:

    What he meant by “character” is actually “moral” in that three out of ten young adults age 17-24 across the US do not qualify for entry in the Armed Services. Disqualifiers are medical, academic, and “Character” or legal issues, i.e. have felony or misdemeanor convictions which require waivers.

    • marcsuttle says:

      Re: Character
      I wish Wallace would have come out and given us the details in that area. (or did the newspaper edit out that part?). I think it is interesting how the military has changed. (and also how we have chanegd our thinking about the military) I know personally of one example, and I’ve read about many more, where a court judge was faced with sentencing a young man and gave him the choice of joining the military or going to jail. The guy I know this happened to went into the Marines and later Vietnam. I’m pretty sure it “straightened out” his life in some ways.

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