Army program aims to help recruits meet entry standards

NewsNation PRIME

(NewsNation) — Facing a major recruiting shortage, the Army is set to launch a new program intended to help recruits who don’t meet its physical or academic standards in hopes of getting them in shape for basic training.

The first tranche of recruits will arrive Monday at Fort Jackson for the Future Soldier Preparatory Course, a three-week program that teaches potential soldiers how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and boost their academic skills.

U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Patrick R. Michaelis joined “NewsNation Prime” on Sunday to talk about the program, which he said will unlock the potential of the nation’s youth who aspire to join the military but don’t meet its requirements.

“We have to invest in society if we’re going to build the army we want,” Michaelis said. “We need to meet society where they’re at and move them through the journey to be the best version of themselves as a soldier.”

The U.S. military projects it will fall short of its recruiting goals by as much as 30,000 troops, and officials have cited societal challenges as a factor. The Army says 71% of youth don’t qualify for military service, particularly because of rising obesity rates.

The Preparatory Course will accept recruits who have a body fat composition between 2% and 6% above the Army’s standard and educate them on how to safely lose 1% to 2% body fat per month. Trainees will meet with dieticians and fitness experts to learn healthy habits.

“We think we can get them to a point where they can enter into basic combat training in a healthy, realistic, resilient way to allow them to serve,” Michaelis said.

The program also contains an academic track, which gives trainees tools needed to pass the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery test. The Army says scores on the ASVAB have dropped 9% since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many schools and universities began remote learning.

Courses will focus on word knowledge, reading comprehension, math and test-taking skills.

“We are going to unlock the aptitude of young people who may not have foundational test-taking skills,” Michaelis said.

The creation of the program has raised some concerns the Army is lowering its standards, but Michaelis said that’s not the case at all. Preparatory Course attendees who don’t meet Army standards within 90 days are not guaranteed to continue into basic training.

“We aren’t going to the lower the standard at any rate,” Michaelis said.

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