Want to join the Army, but you don't have a high school diploma, or a GED? Previously, this was not possible. However, the Army has now opened the Army Preparatory School at Fort Jackson, S.C. to help young men and women who fall short of the education requirements needed to join the military.
The four-week course is an Army one-year test program to help young men and women who want to enlist in the Army to obtain their General Educational Development, or GED, certificate. The Army is considering expanding the program to 10 weeks in the next few months. The Army will evaluate the prep school throughout the first year and, if results are favorable, officials said the program could expand at Fort Jackson or be opened at the other four basic training installations at Fort Benning, Fort Sill, and Fort Leonard Wood.
Those accepted for the program enlist in the Army, but instead of attending basic training after their time in the Reception Battalion, they attend the prep school. Upon completion of the program, and receiving a GED, they then attend basic training. In addition to intensive classroom training to prepare for the GED examination, recruits attending the prep school will also undergo daily physical training, be subject to Army discipline, and learn customs and traditions, to help prepare them for basic. Those who fail to successfully complete the program are returned to their hometown and given an entry-level separation, with no prejudices.
To be eligible, applicants must meet the normal enlistment standards (except for education requirements). The program is only open to applicants who score at least a 50 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) and those who aren't eligible to return to high school.
Once fully operational, officials said the prep school could accommodate upwards of 60 new students each week. The school will have the capability of educating 240 recruits at a time in core academic subjects over the course of four weeks, which may be expanded to ten weeks. It is expected to yield nearly 3,000 graduates in its first year who, upon completion, will continue directly to basic combat training and advanced individual training.
"The APS will help provide the Army with dedicated young men and women who until now were unable to serve their country," Capt. Brian Gaddis the APS company commander, told the Army News Service.
"Because of education requirements, there are high-quality, motivated citizens who can't join," he said. "The APS gives them an opportunity to serve their country."
The Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) is also working with the South Carolina Department of Education to explore the possibilities of the state granting students with an actual high school diploma.
Gen. William S. Wallace, commanding general of TRADOC, believes that the health and fitness of America's youth is rapidly becoming a national security issue.
"Today only 28 percent of the 17 to 24 year-old population qualifies to wear a military uniform. The other 72 percent fail to meet minimum standards on education, character and health," said Wallace. "We will not lower our training standards so we're faced with helping to raise the health and education standards for our young people who want to serve."