Waiver Recipients Take Advantage of 'Second Chance' in Army
By John J. Kruzel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2008 – Army recruits who joined the ranks on conduct waivers are slightly more prone to misconduct, but also are promoted faster, re-enlist in higher numbers and represent higher-quality recruits than recruits who enlisted without needing a conduct waiver, an internal Army study revealed.
The analysis, conducted late last year, compared the re-enlistment rates, performance and effects on recruiting standards of soldiers who didn’t need a conduct waiver to enlist to those whose prior malfeasance was waived.
“For the most part, the individuals that we’re bringing in [on waivers] are not the folks that are dabbling in crime,” said Army Maj. Jake LaPorte, who works in the strength forecasting division of the Army’s personnel, policy and guidance office. “I think they’re the ones who have had a mistake, and we’re giving them a second chance.”
The Army runs potential recruits convicted of a felony or of both serious and minor offenses through a 10-person review. Before a waiver is granted, a general officer must approve the enlistment.
The study sample was made up of first-time recruits from fiscal 2003 to 2006, allowing time for re-enlistment figures to emerge. Findings that reflect positively on waiver recipients include:
-- The conduct-waiver population from fiscal 2003 re-enlisted at a higher rate -- 28.4 percent percent -- compared to a rate of 26.7 percent for soldiers who didn’t need conduct waivers;
-- The infantry conduct-waiver population was promoted to sergeant faster, at 34.7 months of service vs. 39;
-- The conduct-waiver population had a higher ratio of valorous awards, 13.87 percent vs. 12.73 percent; and
-- The conduct-waiver population represented higher-quality recruits, producing a higher percentage of high school graduates -- 86.58 percent vs. 84.2 percent -- and higher Armed Forces Qualification Test scores, 61.2 vs. 60.1.
However, the conduct-waiver population had higher losses in six of nine “adverse loss” categories:
-- Misconduct: 5.95 percent vs. 3.55 percent;
-- Pattern of misconduct: 1.78 percent vs. 1.35 percent;
-- Alcohol rehabilitation failure: 0.27 percent vs. 0.12 percent;
-- Desertion: 4.26 percent vs. 3.59 percent;
-- Military prisoner, bad conduct discharge or dishonorable discharge: 0.5 percent vs. 0.4 percent;
-- Discharge in lieu of courts-martial: 2.58 percent vs. 2.04 percent.
In 2007, the Army granted 511 felony waivers, an increase from the 249 it granted the previous year. Despite this spike, a senior officer said, the Army’s standards have not wavered.
“I would say they’re probably more stringent,” Lt. Col. Val Siegfried, the Army branch chief for enlisted accessions, said of today’s requirements for enlistment compared to those in recent decades.
He said that society judges petty theft and in-school fighting more harshly now than in the past. “If you get in a fight in school as a 14-year-old and kick somebody, it’s aggravated assault with a deadly weapon,” he said, adding that the Army takes a “whole person” look at each recruit, examining the context in which they committed their crime.
“Should that [person] not be brought into the Army and serve his country simply because he got in a fight in school?” he said. “Those are a lot of the kind of people that have been given a waiver for a felony offense in the juvenile life.”
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