Most Americans Unfit to Join the Military

By | March 19, 2018

[March 19, 2018]  It’s been said that American culture encourages us to be so self-centered that just about anything we do for ourselves is acceptable – overindulge no problem; disrespect others, they deserved it; don’t finish school, okay.  One thing we do know about American society is that three-quarters of us are also unfit to join the military.1,2

Here’s the bottom line … most American are unfit to join because they’re drug users, obese, medically unfit, failed to graduate from high school, or have criminal records (or some combination).  The key question in all of this is where have we failed to produce such young people?

The answer lies wholly within the sphere of leadership.  It bears repeating that good leadership is about getting people to do things they would not ordinarily do, because they want to do it.  And … do things that are good for them, their family, community, and country.  Of course, it’s about persuasion.  Whether a person joins the U.S. military, or not, is not at issue for us here but the lack of proper guidance of our youth in our schools, our communities, churches, and at home.

Persuasion is a key attribute of leaders.  When leaders fail, they fail not themselves but those who follow them.  In America, we have failed our youth.  Users of illegal substances, obesity, dropping out of school, and getting in trouble with the law are all avoidable with just a little help.  Yet those that know better are too self-centered, too willing to blame others, or are too cowed to do anything significant about it.

There’s an old joke that asks, “What’s the difference between the Boy Scouts and the Army?”  The answer is that the Boy Scouts have “adult leaders.”  Our youth have adult leaders but those adults are not upholding their basic responsibilities of providing the proper guidance to those folks where they have influence.

Such a systemic failure to help our youth grow and prosper as productive members of society, along with our propensity to allow them to do whatever they want without consequences, is a failing ideology.  The old adage that “I’m okay, you’re okay” doesn’t work.  America’s national security is threatened by its struggling ability to provide sufficient manpower to its armed forces.


  1. Mission Readiness (a non-profit organization of retired admirals and generals) is an advocate for strengthening national security by ensuring kids stay in school, stay fit, and stay out of trouble. In their study of national security they recognized that 71% of today’s young people are ineligible to join any of America’s military services.
Please follow and like us:
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article everyday on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

25 thoughts on “Most Americans Unfit to Join the Military

  1. Martin Shiell

    I did my time in Vietnam. Everyone I knew was eligible to be drafted. Very few were exempt because they were unfit, mentally deficient, or a criminal (that didn’t work anyway). Except for the school boys who went to college the rest of us served.

  2. Joe Omerrod

    New to your site. Thank-you for a new look at leadership!

  3. Max Foster

    This must be a result of the 60s in the US. Me, like so many of my friends from school, are more focused on our immediate wellbeing rather than that of others. But … and this is a big but … we sometimes are a bit lazy. LOL.

  4. Jung-hoon Kim

    I have much surprise at this. I would like to read more on this topic.

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Jung-hoon, I do plan on addressing this topic later. If you have any comment about the situation in South Korea, I would like to hear about it. Thank you for your interest.

  5. Douglas R. Satterfield

    I highly recommend the Mission Readiness website and that organization for good reference material. I’m a member and have lobbied the US Congress on funding pre-school child programs. All the “flag” officers who do this, strictly work for them without pay (as it should be).

  6. Jonathan B.

    30 years ago over 90% of our youth were eligible. Today only 29%. The real question every one of us should ask ourselves is what can we do about it. Mostly what we can do is work one-on-one with young folks. I plan to volunteer as an adult leader for my daughter’s Girl Scout troop. I’m not sure what they do but I’ll bring to them the idea they need to finish school, stay out of trouble, stay in good shape, and be productive members of their community. My first meeting is tonight.

  7. Jerry Jones

    Scary stuff when I find out that most of today’s youth cannot join the military becuase they have been lazy or crazy. Of course, there will always be people who want to join and cannot for legit reasons like not having an arm or leg or diabetes or some other disease or physical impairments. The majority of people however simply don’t follow basic rules that allow the rest of us to live our lives comfortably.

  8. zimmerman

    So true, so sad, and so unavoidable with just a little tough love.

  9. Andrew Dooley

    Shocking! The effect on our national security should be a matter of Presidential concern.

  10. Shawn C Stolarz

    Thank you for your enlightening post day. I as well have known about this but didn’t know it was so widespread. Truly, it is a national security issue. I went to the Mission Readiness website and they are a wealth of good information about this. I recommend we all take a close look at the failure of parents and school in this development. One article of their’s I liked was about “military readiness and resilience.”

  11. Yusaf from Texas

    What? This can’t be true! But, sadly, it is and a shame on those who have made themselves unfit for the military. I would think that most employers are looking for the same “few good men” (and women) who keep themselves clean of drugs, graduate from school, stay in good physical shape, and don’t do anything illegal. It’s really not that hard. General Satterfield, I think you have put your finger on the real cause; parents and schools.

  12. Janna Faulkner

    With most kids born out of wedlock these days and the absence of fathers, this should come as no surprise to anyone. America has been traveling down this road for some time now and there is little to say it’s getting better. For example, several states have made marijuana legal but it is prohibited in the military. Several folks trying to join the US Navy (that I personally know) were turned down becuase of this. They thought becuase the state made it legal that the military would accept them. Surprise! No so.

    1. Army Captain

      I’ve seen the same thing too many times where states have laws that allow certain behaviors that will destroy one’s career in the US military.

    2. Edward Kennedy III

      This is a subject near and dear to my heart. So many of us vets have struggled for years to help get the word out. Finally, it’s slowly becoming apparent that many in government are making things “worse” for our youth, not better.

    3. Billy Kenningston

      Janna, there are many who have been surprised by this very experience of being denied entrance. A few years ago during the Iraq war, waivers were issued regularly for marijuana use and a few minor drugs. Today, that is not the case. The military is much smaller (although growing slightly) and therefore the military is more choosy.

  13. Joey Holmes

    We have the same problem over here in Australia.

  14. Dennis Mathes

    Shocking information to say the least. I come from a family of military veterans; all who served since my grandparents immigrated to the USA.

  15. Army Captain

    There is no surprise that the large proportion of youth are not eligible to join the US military. It’s been that way for a long time and getting worse as the years go by. The main problem are parents (primary problem although no one will admit it) and schools (won’t admit this one either). Most folks blame discrimination and poor economic conditions. They are just looking the other way.

    1. Georgie M.

      As surprised and shocked as I am, I’m proud that so many of our youth have chosen to join the US military and done well. Army Captain, thank you for our service to our country!

Comments are closed.