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Recruits Down, Army Granting "Waivers" To Criminals To Boost Numbers...

Mark Benjamin / Salon | Feb 2 2006

We're transforming our military. The things I look for are the
following: morale, retention, and recruitment. And retention is high,
recruitment is meeting goals, and people are feeling strong about the
mission./

-- George W. Bush, in a Jan. 26 press conference

It was about 10 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2002, when a drug deal was arranged in
the parking lot of a mini-mall in Newark, Del. The car with the drugs,
driven by a man who would become a recruit for the Delaware Air National
Guard, pulled up next to a parked car that was waiting for the exchange.
Everything was going smoothly until the cops arrived.

"I parked and walked over to his car and got in and we were talking,"
the future Air Guardsman later wrote. "He asked if I had any marijuana
and I said yes, that I bought some in Wilmington, Del., earlier that
day. He said he wanted some." The drug dealer went on to recount in a
Jan. 11, 2005, statement written to win admission into the military, "I
walked back to my car [and] as soon as I got in my car an officer put
his flashlight in the window and arrested me."

Under Air National Guard rules, the dealer had committed a "major
offense" that would bar him from military service. Air National Guard
recruits, like other members of the military, cannot have drug
convictions on their record. But on Feb. 2, 2005, the applicant who had
been arrested in the mini-mall was admitted into the Delaware Air
National Guard. How? Through the use of a little-known, but increasingly
important, escape clause known as a waiver. Waivers, which are generally
approved at the Pentagon, allow recruiters to sign up men and women who
otherwise would be ineligible for service because of legal convictions,
medical problems or other reasons preventing them from meeting minimum
standards.

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