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Girding For An Uphill Battle for Military Recruits

Girding For An Uphill Battle for Military Recruits

Christian Davenport and Emma Brown | The Washington Post via YellowBrix

November 05, 2009

Recruiters, then, become part-time tutors and coaches, helping with homework and whipping kids into shape. Some even hold after-school workouts, where teenagers prepare for basic training. To pass an Army physical fitness test, an 18-year-old male must be able to do 42 push-ups in two minutes, 53 sit-ups in two minutes and run two miles in 15 minutes and 54 seconds.

Earlier this year, the National Guard opened a “Patriot Academy” in Indiana, which helps high school dropouts earn a high school diploma after graduating from basic training. In Maryland, the majority of Guard recruiters are also certified substitute teachers, helping recruits with their homework, said Sgt. Maj. Anthony Weeks.

“We’ll go work out at the gym with them to get them in shape,” Weeks said.

But that’s become increasingly challenging. Nationwide, more than one in four adults is classified as obese by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Locally, 22 percent of adults in the District are obese; 26 percent in Virginia; and 27 percent in Maryland.

Mission: Readiness, which comprises 89 retired military leaders including two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is holding a news conference Thursday to bring attention to the issue. And the group is pushing Congress to pass the Obama administration’s Early Learning Challenge Fund, a program that would grant states $1 billion annually for 10 years for early childhood development programs.

Educators say preschool programs are one of the best ways to ensure academic success later in life. Military officials think they’re one of the best ways to ensure the country has a large pool of people who will be savvy enough to fly helicopters, drive tanks and gather intelligence.

“You can’t wait until high school in order to change a young person,” said Kelly, the retired major general. “It has to be done at a very early age, and that’s why the need for high quality early learning is so vital.”


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