Monday, February 20, 2006

The U.S. Army wants you. Even if you had asthma as a child. Even if you exceed the weight requirements and have trouble passing a fitness test. Even if you are over the cut-off age of 35 -- just be under 40 by more than one day. Even if you're a drug abuser. Even if you're a high-school dropout.

With more than 2,200 dead and 16,700 wounded, and a large percentage of Americans disapproving of the war in Iraq, the US military is struggling to meet its recruiting goals. With little fanfare, the Army has eased enlistment restrictions, allowing soldiers previously considered too heavy, too old, too sickly, or too uneducated to head off to basic training.

In January, the enlistment age for active-duty Army recruits was raised from 35 to 40. Late last year, a key drug test for recent use of marijuana was softened. Last fall, a high school equivalency program was put in place for high school dropouts. And last spring, a ban on childhood asthmatics was removed.

But in a country where the rate of teenage obesity climbed from 5 percent to 16 percent over the last 30 years, perhaps the most significant revision is a loophole that allows recruits who are too heavy to meet weight or body fat limits to take the fitness test anyway.

Reassuring, isn't it?

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