Study: 90% of Pittsburgh's Young Adults Unfit for Military Service
Prine, Carl, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh's young adults are so physically unfit and uneducated that up to 90 percent of them can't get into the military, according to a scathing report to be released today by a consortium of 200 top retired military officers and several nonprofits.
The "Unable to Serve" study found that about 25,000 of the city's young men and women between the ages of 18 and 24 are dogged by obesity, asthma and other health issues, poor academic performance, criminal records, drug addiction and eyesight so poor that they couldn't enter the military even if they wanted to do so.
Although Pentagon studies show similar problems nationwide bar about 75 percent of America's young adults from enlistment, the report contends Pittsburgh's problems are noticeably worse. The city's crime rate is higher than much of the rest of the nation, the report notes, and most high school students here fail to graduate on time.
When they do graduate in four years, the report said, they often flunk military entrance exams that test basic math, logic and language skills.
The solution? High-quality state programs designed to educate at- risk nursery school children who otherwise might become worthless to an all-volunteer military by the time they reach adulthood, the report says.
"From my perspective, I want to talk about the fitness of these kids," said retired Air Force Col. Edmund Effort, 61, a dentist who screens local nominees for the Air Force Academy. "Are they physically and mentally fit to serve in our military?"
Effort is slated to speak today when the report is presented at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland. The Pennsylvania chapter of the Washington-based "Mission: Readiness" organization wrote the report. Pennsylvania's chapter includes 10 retired generals or admirals and numerous former officers and senior enlisted personnel.
Analysis of military testing data by the Washington-based nonprofit The Education Trust shows that one out of every five Pennsylvania high school grads who take the military test flunks it. For black and Hispanic graduates, the failure rate doubles.
In Pittsburgh city schools, 48 percent of 11th-graders in 2009 failed to score above basic levels in reading and 57 percent scored below basic levels in math.
Research on pre-school initiatives in the military's Child Development Centers and similar preschool initiatives in Ypsilanti, Mich., Chicago and Pittsburgh's Pre-K Counts program suggests that early investments by taxpayers in disadvantaged tots could aid the Pentagon by producing solid students a dozen years later. …