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Military Recruiting Nears Record High for Quality

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Washington

The number of military recruits who are high school graduates and who score well on aptitude tests has reached a near-record high, Defense Department figures show.

In terms of recruit quality, fiscal 1994, which ended Sept. 30, was the third-best year in military-recruiting history, according to department data. The armed services hit other recruiting highs in fiscal 1991 and 1992, after the war against Iraq in the Persian Gulf. Fiscal 1992 was the military's top year for recruit quality.

The armed services' recruitment standards are rising as the military downsizes and becomes more "techno oriented," said Maj. Tom Schultz, a Defense Department spokesman.

"We have given recruiting special attention during the past year and are pleased with the results--continued high-quality enlistments for our armed forces," John M. Deutch, the deputy secretary of defense, said in a statement.

Ninety-six percent of the 176,105 new recruits in fiscal 1994 had high school diplomas, compared with 91 percent of new recruits a decade ago. The percentage of "high quality" recruits--those who are high school graduates and scored above average on the Armed Forces Qualification Test--was 68 percent.

Being More Selective

Though slightly more than 7,000 recruits who were not high school graduates joined the military in fiscal 1994, such enlistees are less valued by recruiters because they are less likely than graduates to complete their service, department data show. Traditionally, 80 percent of recruits with diplomas complete their initial three years of service, compared with about 50 percent of recruits who did not graduate from high school.

"When you train a young person for nine months, and they wash out, that's money down the drain," said Maj. Schultz. "A high school diploma does more than show academic performance; it shows you can stick it out."

Major Schultz added that military downsizing means recruiters "can afford to be more selective."

With the post-Cold War reductions, the number of 19-year-olds, for example, serving in the military dropped from 134,000 in 1989 to 85,000 in 1993.

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