The U.S. Navy is starting to enlist individuals who didn't graduate from high school or get a GED, marking the second time in about a year that the service has opened the door to lower-performing recruits as it struggles to meet enlistment goals. The decision follows a move in December 2022 to bring in a larger number of recruits who score very low on the Armed Services Qualification Test. Both are fairly rare steps that the other military services largely avoid or limit, even though they are all finding it increasingly difficult to attract the dwindling number of young people who can meet the military’s physical, mental and moral standards, informs ‘The Military’.
Under the new plan, Navy recruits without an education credential will be able to join as long as they score 50 or above on the qualification test, which is out of 99. The last time the service took individuals without education credentials was in 2000.
“We get thousands of people into our recruiting stations every year that want to join the Navy but do not have an education credential. And we just turn them away,” said Vice Adm. Rick Cheeseman, the Navy's chief of personnel, in an interview with The Associated Press.
In the wake of the pandemic, the services have faced significant enlistment challenges. COVID-19 forced the military to shut down recruiting stations and they were closed out of high schools and many public fairs of events where they historically found success reaching prospective candidates.
But even as things opened up, the military struggled to compete with higher-paying businesses in the tight job market, particularly as companies began to offer the types of benefits — such as college funding — that had often made the military a popular choice. Those economic problems were only exacerbated by the sharp political divide in the country and young people's fears of being killed or injured going to war.
Last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the Navy, Army and Air Force all failed to meet their recruitment goals, while the Marine Corps and the tiny Space Force met their targets. The previous fiscal year, the Army fell 15,000 short of its enlistment goal of 60,000, and the other services had to dig into the pools of delayed entry candidates in order to meet their recruiting numbers.
Last year, the Navy's enlistment goal was 37,700, but the service brought in just 31,834. This year, Cheeseman said, he set the goal higher — at 40,600. The total size of the Navy for 2024 is set at 337,800.
The Navy is the only service that enlists anyone considered a “category four” recruit, meaning they scored 30 or less on the qualification test. The service expanded the number of those category four recruits arguing that a number of jobs — such as cook or boatswain mate — don't require an overall high test score, as long as they meet the job standards.
In addition, the Army and Marine Corps require a high school diploma or GED equivalent, and the Air Force said it will only take recruits without a diploma if they score a 65 or higher on the qualification test.
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