A small matter of national security

By Joe Angelino

Sun Staff Writer

The Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea are almost over. I’ve tried to watch as much as possible each evening, but without Russian state sponsored athletes, it doesn’t have the same competitiveness. The OAR (Olympic Athletes from Russia) may participate, but can’t display the Russian flag. Instead they display a nondescript symbol that isn’t the most inspiring or instigating of banners.

Now, in place of the Russian competitiveness we have tension from North Korea cozying up to our South Korean allies. The opening ceremony seating arrangement caused awkward theatrics with Kim Jong-il’s little sister, Yo-jong, seated coffee-breath-close to Vice President Michael Pence.

The Greek origins of the Olympic Games were a way to fight surrogate wars with the bonus of not dying for your country. Unfortunately, today we don’t settle international disputes with Olympic athletes; we use volunteer soldiers to prepare for the defense of our nation, which is some cause for concern. This anxiety comes from a 2014 report released by the Pentagon that found seven in 10 military age people in America were not fit for entry into the military. The term “not fit” has its normal meaning of fat and out of shape, but also includes moral and mental fitness.

Annually, our military depends on a continuous flow of volunteers to train for the defense of our nation. The Army alone requires 80,000 new recruits annually and incentives coupled with signing bonuses aren’t helping meet that number. Most of this arduous duty falls upon armed forces recruiters who have a difficult time overcoming the unfair stereotype of being less than trustworthy. With only 30 percent of the population available, and knowing only a small portion of that number will have any military interest, it’s an easy conclusion that America is going to have a manpower shortage protecting our shores and interests abroad.

Here are numbers from that Pentagon report: there are 30 million 17 to 24 year olds in the United States. When those numbers get whittled down to those who are qualified and interested, the pool is less than a million people available to help protect our nation. The recruiting dilemma could be offset by lowering entry standards, but trust me, no one wants to do that when firearms, live ammunition and the defense of our country are at stake.

Another way to increase the numbers of those qualified is to increase the “fitness” of America. The first area that needs improvement – and is the biggest reason for disqualification – is physical health. Obesity in people is trending upward and needs to reverse course now. Take a look at high school yearbook pictures from the past and you will have trouble finding a pudgy kid. Parents need to limit online gaming time and send their kids out and play and to walk to school. First Lady Michelle Obama’s school lunch program had the right idea, with the wrong delivery and flavors.

Another disqualifying event from military service is run-ins with the criminal justice system. The days of a judge sending a delinquent to the Marines to “make a man out of him” are long gone, if they ever really existed. Past performance is a pretty good predictor of future behavior in the armed forces, so trouble makers are passed over.

A way to counter this is for parents to get their children involved in supervised after-school activities and organizations such as scouting. These kids statistically are less likely to be involved in criminal activity.

As for mental health issues, our nation should stop creating new disorders that require a drug company to invent a miracle pill. Our country prescribes more psychotropic drugs to teenagers than any country on earth. Just stop this over medication and replace it with love, attention, discipline and family activities. If you decide to have children, you should know going into this endeavor it takes some time and effort.

Anyone who went to grade school in the 1960s and ‘70s must remember the gym class “Chicken Fat” song sung by Robert Preston. If not, Google it. That drum cadence, marching tune was a part of President Kennedy’s Council on Physical Fitness which he instituted to increase America’s military readiness in response to the Russian threat.

It wasn’t until years later we learned that was the real reason for all of those squat thrusts. I think it’s time to dig out that 45 RPM record, or the digital equivalent, for gym classes of today. It’s a matter of national security.

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