In popular culture around the world, drill sergeants or training sergeants are powerful and terrifying.
Recruiting sergeants, on the other hand, are the sales reps of the military: deceptive, pliable, apt to promise much and deliver little.
These two types of sergeants are in permanent conflict, but the real power, surprisingly, is on the side of the smiling recruiter, not the screaming drill sergeant.
The job of recruiters is to fulfill their quota of new soldiers, the raw material the drill sergeant then turns them into the soldiers who will be the army for the months and years to come.
For the drill sergeant to do the best job, the recruiter should entice fit, smart, eager, aggressive teenagers well brought up by loving parents. These new soldiers will be mentally and physically ready to become the best soldiers on the planet, striving with each other to be the best at running, shooting, studying, cleaning and crawling through the mud.
This ideal situation very occasionally happens, such as in the first months after America declared war on Japan and Germany in 1941. Many of the best young men in country from the very poor to the very rich signed up before they were drafted. Those drafted, for the most part, did not resist the draft and these brave young men defeated Germany and Japan within less than four years.
Take away the draft and the recruiter has to entice soldiers to enlist. In an eternal truth of military recruiting in free countries, the better the economy, the harder the recruiter’s job. Currently, the U.S. economy is good enough that the military is advertising enlistment bonuses. I read an article earlier this year about the Army relaxing height and weight standards and adding more training to slim overweight soldiers down. On Facebook recently, I saw a recruiter passing the word that if you did not pass the aptitude test, contact him, there may be a waiver.
For recruiters, the lower standards are, the more bodies they get in the bus for basic training.
Drill sergeants then have to take whoever steps off the bus and turn them into soldiers. Lower standards mean they spend more time trying push the bad soldiers up to the level of barely acceptable when they could be making the good soldiers better.
When I re-enlisted at age 54 in 2007, the Army raised its maximum enlistment age from 35 to 42, which meant I could get back in with eleven years prior service and a one-year waiver. By 2010, the Army changed the age back to 35. It turns out enlisting over 40 does not work out for most people.
At the same time, the Army relaxed some of its education, aptitude and criminal standards because recruiting was so difficult in the good economy of 2007. By 2010, the economy sucked and recruiting was easier.
When recruiters met their quotas with old and less qualified recruits, the drill sergeants had to deal with pushing people who should not be there through their training schedule.
Eventually, lower standards entering the military mean lower standards in the military. When my Army National Guard unit mobilized for Iraq 40% of the soldiers flunked the fitness test. That is crazy.
When I saw that the Army might accept lower aptitude scores, that was really scary. The cut-off score now is 31 on a scale of 160. The aptitude score roughly correlates with IQ scores. Can 31 really be acceptable? Can LOWER than 31 be acceptable? I don't think so.