Warning: Military content ahead. If you are easily bored go read Lileks instead.
Question: Is the Army better off recruiting geniuses or altruists?
When I was thinking of joining the military (I wanted the Air Force BTW (as a small arms instructor)) two of my close friends also wanted to join up. All 3 of us went and took the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) test to qualify with the following results:
“Rob”: Scored well enough for entry at about a 40 GT. He didn’t score anywhere near high enough for his job of choice (Navy diver) though so he gave up on it.
“Roger”: This was his third try at the ASVAB and he still didn’t manage to score above 25 to qualify for a waiver. This was the last time he attempted it to my knowledge.
“Greywar” : I scored pretty well. Well enough for the very interested Army recruiter to brainwash me against the Air Force (who couldn’t have cared less about my interest in their service).
For those who don’t know, the ASVAB GT result is basically a measurement of IQ. Whether it is an effective measurement or not is beyond the scope of this post though. The GT scale doesn’t stop at 100 so do not view the results as a percentage. Generally speaking the Army wants a minimum of 33 GT (General Trainability) or 25 with a waiver. This score only qualifies a recruit for the most basic of MOS’s (Military Occupational Specialty (read : job)) and it is usually not up to the recruit as to which job they want.
If you score higher your MOS options start to expand. Once you hit 110 or higher you are qualified for virtually any MOS the military has to offer. If you want a job with a SECRET clearance you need to have a decently clean background, a TOP SECRET clearance (collateral) requires a much cleaner background and credit history, and a TOP SECRET/SCI (Sensitive Compartmentalized Information) requires even more checking and possibly a polygraph (depending on your compartments).
*I apologize for my compulsive need to provide frames of reference but I can’t help myself.
The problem with this system is that it doesn’t take into account any recruit’s work ethic or altruistic attitudes. While I may be “smarter” than Roger the fact remains that Roger was and is a better worker than I am. Rob on the other hand was and is an extreme slacker. If he had managed to make his score the Army would have been worse for his addition to the force. (Sorry Rob, but it’s true).
As an intelligence operator I saw the Army take in huge quantities of very smart people who were less than useless due a deficiency in either work ethos, altruism, or both. A Genius who isn’t motivated to work does no one any good.
When I was SGT Greywar I would tend to choose a slightly dumber soldier with a solid work ethic over the primadonna genius whenever I had any choice in the matter. Of course the best of both worlds is even nicer but we can’t all have soldiers like Pseudo, SNBS, Sangus, EL, and HBW all the time can we?
Of course testing someone’s work ethic is very difficult to do prior to employing them for a time. The Army used to rely on the evaluations of soldiers done by NCO’s (Sergeants) to sort this important aspect out but they changed all that years ago.
10 years ago a soldier was not considered by a promotion board (for Sergeant) until they had been in the Army for a certain amount of time, been a Specialist or Corporal for another amount of time, AND had a recommendation for promotion from their supervising Sergeant. In other words, you had to impress someone enough to do additional work in order to get a promotion for you.
Today the system is reversed, you will be promoted when you hit the admin requirements unless your supervisor does reams of paperwork to prevent it. This has allowed the GT score to become virtually the only standard in the Army whatsoever. You can even be fat and out of shape for half a decade without it having any real consequences (trust me on that one).
Maybe I am just hyper-critical of the Army but I think that the current system is off the rails and speeding towards a wall marked “Lazy Incompetence”. Enjoy the ride.