Wednesday, July 18, 2012

NASCAR Fans, Unfit to Serve

In an op-ed in today's Star Tribune, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Saint Paul) wrote:

In May, USA Today reported that the National Guard's $26.5 million taxpayer-funded contract with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s No. 88 NASCAR team resulted in the National Guard being "contacted by more than 24,800 individuals expressing interest in joining." Of these contacts, the National Guard spokesperson said that "20 were qualified candidates and that none joined." That's right, $26.5 million for zero recruits.
I have no particular response to McCollum's general argument, which is in support of an amendment she has introduced to strip sports sponsorship money from the defense appropriations bill.

The response I do have is to the numbers she cited. How could only 20 out of 24,800 people meet the National Guard's qualifications? That's .08 percent!

Here are the Guard's requirements:
  • 17 to 35 years old (unless you have prior military service or specialized skills needed)
  • U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident
  • Height and weight within a particular range (no details given)
  • No felony convictions
  • High school diploma required in most, but not all, states (although the Guard has a GED support program, so that's not a complete deal-breaker)
  • Take a vocational aptitude test in math, science, word knowledge, electronics, mechanics, and auto/shop skills. It's not clear if the test can be failed, or if it's just for placement purposes.
24,780 of the NASCAR fans who applied couldn't meet those requirements.

Am I wrong to think that an applicant would have read or been told the requirements by a recruiter? So wouldn't that have weeded out most of the obvious nonqualifiers, such as people over 35 or those with a felony conviction?

The Guard website provides a complicated chart that lists the minimum number of situps, pushups, and two-mile-run times required, but it didn't seem as though the requirements were unreasonable. (Judging by my own indifferent level of fitness when I was under 35, it looked as though I could have met them with just a bit of extra effort).

So I'm left to assume that the height and weight requirements were the main sticking point. Though the numbers aren't provided on the main qualifications page, they weren't hard to find. Judge for yourself as to whether they're unreasonable; I would say they stick pretty close to the recommended BMI range, maybe going 10 or 15 percent above it. A 5'6" woman, for instance, can weigh up to the low 160s; a 6' man can weigh just over 200.

So all I can do is return to the basic fact: 99.92 percent of NASCAR fans who applied are not fit to be in the National Guard.

I wonder what the failure rate would be in the general population?

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