Enlistment Waiver Policy Works Well, Official Says
By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, April 25, 2008 Though the Defense Department is granting waivers to allow some recruits to enlist who it once may have rejected, the system is working well, a senior Pentagon official said today.
In a conference call with online journalists and “bloggers,” Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, said servicemembers who wear the uniform thanks to waivers are performing well.
“The vast majority of the conduct waivers are misdemeanors and a litany of three-or-more traffic offenses. And, with that, there are some felony arrests and a few felony convictions,” Carr said.
The waivers he is referring to don’t represent hardened criminals, he added, but rather people who participated in childhood pranks.
“But, in every case, if their community has joined behind them and offered their support, then the recruiter might, if we’ve got a strong candidate in terms of their other attributes, send it up for a waiver,” he said.
Carr added that officials don’t relax the standards in granting waivers, but do make exceptions based on solid judgment calls.
“Last year’s [waivered enlistees] proved to perform; they retained as well as the non-waivered counterparts, and they wouldn’t be retaining if they weren’t performing,” he said. “They are doing as well as the non-waiver crowd. Therefore, we are making correct bets on the risks that we take for someone that has done something that was that much of an aberration against what we expect of our teenagers.”
If people with behavior or medical problems did make it to a training base, Carr noted, officials there would be quick to notice. “And, if it were creating a problem,” he said, “my knowledge of the institution tells me that the training base isn’t going to put up with it, and that practice in recruiting is going to change, and we would have heard about it.”
Tattoos are an issue in military recruiting, Carr said, and he noted that all of the services have adopted the same standard for what types of tattoos are and aren’t allowed.
“Show me the tattoo,” Carr said. “I’m going to check it against a book of gangs, and in the event that you have [a gang-related tattoo], you almost certainly are going to be disqualified.”
Though up to about a year ago, gang affiliation wasn’t seen as a disqualification for entry into the Army, Carr said, the Army has uniformly adopted this policy with the other services. Another disqualification for entry into any of the branches of service is the presence of a tattoo that is affiliated with a hate group.
Carr acknowledged that the Army has allowed waivers for recruits who have tattoos on visible parts of their bodies, such as on their hands and neck. “You begin limiting your market based on the kind of body art that a particular generation would apply to themselves,” he said.
However, Carr said, despite the use of waivers, the standards for who the services can accept remain the same.
“We insist that the services -- every one of them, every year -- draw 60 percent from the top half [of potential recruits], and most of them are exceeding it,” he said. “Army’s just about exactly at 60 percent. Our goal is a high-performing military.”
(Navy Lt. Jenifer Cragg is assigned to the New Media branch of American Forces Information Service.)