Three Myths About the Military

Since the end of the draft era, the armed services have gradually assumed a less prominent position in our society, leading to the growth of various modern myths about the military. Here’s the truth about three.

What are your favorite myths about the military? Whether you’ve only encountered soldiers in the mall as recruiters, or simply thrilled by their accomplishments dramatized on the big screen, many of us who’ve never served in the military harbor misconceptions that just might surprise our veterans.

In this issue of Mythbusters, we’ll take a look at the truth about three modern military myths. Our intention here isn’t to act as either cheerleaders or critics. We just want to clarify a few misunderstandings about the needs, motivations, and practices of the American military, as well as the people who comprise it.

Myth 1: Most people in the military are poorly educated.

This myth about the military is probably the most common, and it’s simply untrue. Current Department of Defense standards require that at least 90% of new recruits have, at minimum, a high school education. This is notably higher than the percentage of graduates the general population boasts, at about 80%.

Given the number of career soldiers recruited under laxer standards in the past, the actual number of rank-and-file soldiers with high school diplomas is a bit less than in the general populace. About 4% more have GEDs rather than standard diplomas.

On the other hand, nearly 100% of officers have college degrees. Actually, it’s now a requirement to have a four-year degree to hold a commission. These days, even senior-level enlisted ranks, including NCOs like First Sergeants, also need college degrees. Clearly, this myth about the military is completely unfounded.

Myth 2: The military will take anyone who signs up.

This myth would have you believe that military is filled with petty criminals, dumb-as-dirt country hicks, and folks who, in the colorful idiom of the American South, can’t find their rears with both hands. As the previous myth should have made clear, that’s not at all the case, though it might have been in the old draft army.

The military entrance exams themselves prove this myth about the military false. While they’re not as difficult as, say, college exam boards, they’re nothing to sneeze at. You don’t necessarily have to have a high school diploma to pass them, but it doesn’t hurt to bone up on the basics before you try.

Even if you do pass, forget about a military career if you have a serious police record. That goes double for drugs; if you test positive you’re out, not matter how much time they’ve invested in you.

Myth 3: The military’s a good fall-back position if you can’t get a job anywhere else.

There’s no doubt that the military is a good place to make a career, but it’s hardly a jobs program where we put people who can’t make it elsewhere. The military require quality recruits that they can count on in a pinch, not the losers and troublemakers most pundits seem to expect.

So as a corollary of the last myth among many myths about the military, this statement is just as untrue.