When I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio for basic training, the first thing they did was yell at us.
But the second thing the Air Force did was hand us our airman’s manual. On the front cover were the three core values that I try to meet to this day.
Integrity First… Service Before Self… and Excellence in All We Do.
It was drilled into our souls for eight weeks. EXCELLENCE IN ALL WE DO.
But now, as the military looks to meet aggressive recruiting goals, I’m concerned that we are sacrificing excellence.
And the consequences could be frightening.
For example, the Navy has issued new physical fitness requirements before recruits can start boot camp (the new standards kick in January 1).
The problem? You don’t have to be very physically fit to pass.
Men will have to run a mile and a half in 16:10… and women will get a whopping 18:07 to complete the task.
I mean, you have to be kidding me.
The two-mile run was my biggest hurdle in basic training. I remember my bunk buddy Bob all but dragging me across the finish line to make sure I wouldn't be washed back.
Most people could walk a mile and a half in 18 minutes.
But I’m even more concerned about proposals that would expand the number of people with felony convictions and mental illness who could serve.
Believe me, I understand that there are a lot of felons out there who have made mistakes and served their time.
But what happened to integrity first?
If you are training… or serving in the field with… convicted felons, you’ll immediately wonder about their integrity and whether you can rely on them. And a lack of trust can undermine a military unit.
And in the military, there is no room for selfishness. I’ve met some convicted felons throughout my life – and, to make a pretty significant generalization, they tend to be selfish.
The other big issue is allowing people with mental illness, like bipolar disorder, to join the service.
Now, lots of these people will be taking medications. But these medications don’t always work or sometimes need to be adjusted – and making sure the medicines are regularly taken will be a challenge.
We have witnessed first-hand what can happen when you put weapons in the hands of mentally disturbed individuals. For the most part, these folks need to be evaluated and medicated -- not given M-16 training.
We have the greatest military in the world. We need to keep it that way.
As a soldier, if you have to question the person next to you, it is hard to concentrate on the important task at hand. That’s no way to run a military – even if we have recruiting goals to meet.
James Favata is an Air Force veteran and expert marksman who works as a freelance writer in Virginia. He covers military issues for America Uncensored.