Only one in five of Nevada’s high school graduates who tries to join the Army is smart enough to get in, according to a report released Tuesday by a national security organization of retired generals and admirals.
While low, Nevada’s 19 percent pass rate among Army applicants on the military’s mandatory entrance exam – testing basic reading, math and other skills in 10 sections of multiple-choice questions – is just a little worse than the national pass rate of 23 percent. Nevada ranked 36th in the nation. Mississippi topped the list with a 38 percent pass rate, with Idaho ranking last with a pass rate of 14 percent.
However, the Silver State has the lowest graduation rate in the country at 63 percent, which – in reality – makes its true pass rate even lower. More than one in three young Nevadans wouldn’t even be allowed to take the military aptitude test because they don’t have high school diplomas.
“You can’t do basic math. You can’t read. You can’t serve your country,” said retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Scott at a Tuesday press conference at Las Vegas’ Variety Early Learning Center.
Serving in the military requires problem-solving skills and the ability to operate complex machines, he said.
“And you probably can’t serve other organizations either,” Scott added.
But there are many other reasons – body weight and criminal histories – also pushing the military out of reach for the vast majority of young Nevadans and Americans.
The Department of Defense estimates that 75 percent of young Americans are unable to join the military for at least one reason.
“Most people are surprised, as am I,” said retired Air Force Major General Billy McCoy.
About 43 percent of Nevada’s young adults are overweight or obese, according to standards of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is more lax than the military in its requirements for these weight categories preventing admission.
One in 10 young adults cannot join because of a felony conviction or serious misdemeanor.
Mission: Readiness, the nonpartisan organization of 350 retired military leaders that published Tuesday’s report revealing much of this information, is doing so for a reason.
The report shows that “high-quality early education programs can help reverse all three of the major barriers to military service,” Scott said.
The organization particularly points to early education and reports showing students who participated in quality pre-kindergarten were almost a grade-level ahead of their peers in math and literacy by late elementary school.
The group of retired military leaders – each with at least 30 years of service – ranked all the states, but fully evaluated just eight, choosing them because of their key policy makers. In Nevada, that was Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Nevada’s pre-kindergarten education program was established in 2001. But it serves just 3 percent of children ages 3 to 5. President Barack Obama has proposed working with states to provide programs for all 4-year-old children and eventually to all those who are 3.
“Think what it would be like 15 years from now if we don’t do something,” Scott said.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.