Standards Lowering for Stretched US Military
This story broke my heart this morning. A US soldier who by many accounts should not have seen active duty was sent to Iraq and subsequently killed within eight weeks. While physically fit, the soldier in question apparently lacked the other skills necessary for an effective soldier.
His observation appears to be borne out by the Pentagon's own data. According to records made available to NEWSWEEK, the attrition rate for GIs with health, performance or conduct problems in their first months of Army service has dropped by as much as 45 percent since 2004. In other words, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan strain the Army more and more, fewer problem soldiers are getting weeded out in basic training.
Dietrich's problems did not surface on enlistment tests. In Iraq, it's unclear whether his cognitive issues had something to do with his death. Yet his superiors had serious misgivings about the troubled soldier. One of them says he worried that Dietrich would pose a danger to himself and others if he was sent to Iraq and pushed to have him processed out of the military—only to be rebuffed by higher-ups. In conversations with NEWSWEEK, he asked not to be named for fear of jeopardizing his Army career. Berg, the squad leader, says he is speaking publicly because he feels partially responsible for Dietrich's death. "The Army was under a lot of pressure to graduate scouts at the time, and even now … no matter how competent or incompetent," Berg says.