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No life like it?

Drug-addled? Drunk? Out of shape? Pregnant? There may be a career for you in the American military.

The U.S. Army has ordered battalion commanders to stop dismissing new recruits for drug and alcohol abuse, poor fitness and pregnancy in an attempt to curb the rising attrition rate in an army under growing strain as a result of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. An internal memo states that the rising dropout rate was "a matter of great concern" in an army at war. "We need your concentrated effort to reverse the negative trend," it reads. "By reducing attrition one per cent, we can save up to 3,000 initial-term soldiers. That's 3,000 more soldiers in our formations."

Officially, the memo ordered battalion commanders to refer cases of problem soldiers up to brigade level. "It's merely a question of an additional set of eyes looking at an issue before we release potential recruits," a Pentagon spokesman said.

However, military analysts warned the move would make it more difficult to remove poor soldiers, and would lower quality in the ranks. The Wall Street Journal quoted a colonel as saying: "It's the guys on weight control, ... school no-shows, drug users, etc., who eat up my time and cause my hair to grey prematurely ... Often they have more than one of these problems simultaneously."

Another recruiting standard about to be lowered is a rule governing tattoos in the navy and marines. "If you have excessively prominant and vulgar tattoos they will not take you right now, but that is about to change," said John Pike of the think-tank, which monitors developments in Iraq.

Asked what the new policy meant, Mr. Pike replied: "It means there's a war and they need all the soldiers they can get."
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Title Annotation:INCOMING: Hits & misses; drug and alcohol abuse, poor fitness and pregnancy; United States Army to reassess new problem recruits
Publication:Esprit de Corps
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2005
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